A story in today's Post-Dispatch raises the curtain a bit on a new practice of the City's Health Department.
For the past several months, Health Department employees and community volunteers, have been humanely trapping "colonies" of feral cats, spaying/neutering/vaccinating them, and returning them to their original neighborhoods. In those neighborhoods, a colony "caretaker" feeds the cats and monitors their health. This strategy, called TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return), replaces a policy in which most feral cats were euthanized.
The vast majority of feral cats are born and raised outside, and have reverted to wild ways to survive. Generally, they are too fearful to be handled. They live in groups (colonies) and live off garbage, rodents, and other animals. They live in abandoned buildings and cars. They live a year or two (more if there is a caretaker). They multiply like cats.
Local activists estimate that there are 20,000 such feral cats in the St. Louis region around the city.
In 2009, the last full year that City of St. Louis operated the Animal Control Center, almost 1,500 cats and kittens came through the door. Relatively few cats were ever adopted, rescued, or returned to owners. Most cats, three out of four, were euthanized.
The City is no longer in that cruel business.
TNR, which returns healthy, neutered cats to managed colonies in willing neighborhoods, is endorsed by the ASPCA as a humane and effective way to control populations of feral cats.
I am glad the story is finally out of the bag.