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Niagara Board of Health endorses trapping and treatment for feral cats

LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Board of Health voted unanimously Thursday to endorse a method of controlling feral cats that calls for treating them and feeding them rather than killing them.

The board voted to send a letter to the County Legislature, recommending that it follow Erie County’s lead in passing a resolution in support of Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return, or TNVR.

The model resolution put forward by the SUNY Buffalo Animal Law Pro Bono Project urges local governments to legalize the practice, in which animal lovers pick up the cats and take them to a veterinarian at their own expense to be sterilized and vaccinated against rabies. The cats are then returned to where they were picked up, and are fed by a caretaker, again at private expense.

Nicole Komin, a UB Law School student, told the board that laws against feeding stray or feral cats “don’t really reflect the most modern knowledge in managing community cats.”

Attorney Peter A. Reese said a community cat is one that is friendly enough to be adopted and taken into a home. A feral cat is a wild animal that cannot be adopted.

He said many municipalities don’t have laws addressing the feral cat issue, but some ban contact with them. He said the City of Lackawanna recently brought charges against Nancy Kapsiak, a woman who was feeding feral cats, and he’s trying to get the case dismissed by having Lackawanna adopt a TNVR law.

The City of Buffalo already has, and it appropriated $50,000 to help the cat lovers do their work, Reese said. TNVR also has been legalized in North Tonawanda, the City of Tonawanda, Amherst and Williamsville, according to Komin.

She said TNVR costs the government nothing. “Usually these are animal lovers who actually enjoy doing this,” Komin said. “This creates a pool of healthy, sterilized animals. You don’t have rabies or other diseases.”

The traditional means of dealing with feral cats is to trap them and take them to a shelter, where they are often killed if they go unclaimed for five days. Komin said, “It’s costly and endless, and it’s just a cycle.”

Reese said the left ear is clipped on cats that have undergone TNVR, so they can be recognized if they are picked up again.