View Full Version : Toledo Zoo and feral cats

07-20-2003, 08:04 PM
Zoo plans to begin trapping stray cats
Diseased felines jeopardize wildlife


In Toledo, the zoo is no place for cats - at least not the diseased, stray, or feral kind.

And faced with the possibility of potentially deadly disease that can be passed from the domestic type to Toledo’s exotic collection, the zoo this week will begin trapping those that stray onto its grounds.

Those that remain unclaimed may be euthanized.

Though the zoo for years has battled feral cats and strays from time to time, the problem recently has grown, zoo officials said.

"They’ll wait for the gates to open, and they’ll get in," said Dr. Tim Reichard, the zoo’s senior veterinarian. "They’re getting into some of the exhibits. People see them walking around."

In past years, tests have shown that several animals have been exposed to the potentially deadly toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by fecal-intestinal organisms that can damage the central nervous system and is carried in cat feces. And it was named as a contributing cause in the death of a wallaby several years ago, Dr. Reichard said.

Additionally, there’s the risk of feline leukemia and other domestic cat diseases that can be passed to the larger feline cousins, like lions and cheetahs, not to mention the slew of parasite problems, he said.

"This is a very real problem," the veterinarian said.

In 1996, the zoo began trapping the animals and turning them over to the Toledo Area Humane Society, which placed them for adoption or, if they were diseased or wild, euthanized them.

But Humane Society staff began rethinking their stance on feral cats more than a year ago.

In some ways, feral cat populations fill their own niche and prevent other feral cats from moving in. To look at it another way: Exterminate one group of feral cats, and it creates a vacuum and turf war from others, executive director Greg Bloomfield said.

So the Humane Society began a new program with the city. Now, humane society officers take a "trap, neuter, and release" approach, which allows some feral colonies to remain where they are but tries to stabilize the population.

About 400 cats have been sterilized under the program in the last year, he said.

Of course, that policy doesn’t help the zoo, Mr. Bloomfield said. "Their problem is needing to get rid of the cats."

Last week, zoo volunteers distributed flyers to nearby residents notifying them of the new program and urging them to keep their pets inside.

The cats will be held at the zoo for at least three days if they don’t have identification, or 14 days if they do have ID tags, according to the zoo’s policy. If they are claimed, the zoo will offer to the owner a free exam for disease.

Unclaimed, wild, or diseased cats will be euthanized by one of the zoo’s two veterinarians using anesthesia, followed by an intravenous injection of pentobarbital solution, which stops the breathing and the heartbeat, Dr. Reichard said.

Still other cats might end up with owners, zoo spokesman Andi Norman said.

"If the cat is temperamentally suitable for adoption, we’ll contact local shelters to see if there’s any availability," Ms. Norman said. "If there is, we’ll even incur the costs to do that."

But given the climate of today’s local animal shelters - they’re simply too full already, officials said - it’s not clear how many animals really would be placed up for adoption.

"We turn away 15 or 20 people or day," said Dave Plunkett, of Paws and Whiskers, which runs a shelter of about 90 cats and has foster homes for about 60 more.

Agreed Patti Rood, founder of Lend-A-Paw Foundation: "We’d love to take them all, but we don’t have the room or the funding."

In fact, for years the city has tried to get a handle on its feral and stray cat population. In 1992, City Council passed a law requiring the licensing of cats. The $10 to $45 fee for the license - the higher cost was for cats that were not spayed or neutered - was to pay for an animal control officer.

But no such officer has been hired, and no citations have been issued, as far as anyone can remember.

As for the zoo’s policy on euthanizing cats, it’s within the legal limits as long as it is done properly and by qualified individuals, said Linda Reider, a coordinator of the Bowling Green-based Great Lakes regional office of the Humane Society of the United States.

and several follow up opinions/articles

The zoo's cat problem (http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artikkel?SearchID=73141675510476&Avis=TO&Dato=20030626&Kategori=OPINION02&Lopenr=106260114&Ref=AR)

Zoo's decision (http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artikkel?SearchID=73141675711851&Avis=TO&Dato=20030701&Kategori=OPINION03&Lopenr=107010090&Ref=AR)

Stray cats (http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artikkel?SearchID=73141675848492&Avis=TO&Dato=20030706&Kategori=COLUMNIST22&Lopenr=107060100&Ref=AR)