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Niagara Board of Health walks back support for TNVR

LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Board of Health, which voted unanimously last month to send a letter of support for controlling feral cats by treating, feeding and releasing them, decided Thursday not to send the letter just yet.

Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton said the letter has been written, but a proposal to send it to the County Legislature was tabled after objections were raised.

Stapleton said two board members, veterinarian Donald Lewis and dentist Elizabeth Micoli, raised questions about Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return, or TNVR, in the wake of the Jan. 22 presentation by supporters from Erie County. They withdrew their votes supporting the letter.

Also, Dr. David Monti, president of the Niagara County Veterinary Society and owner of animal hospitals in Middleport and Wrights Corners, emailed his concerns to the Health Department.

Stapleton said the county heard claims from opponents of TNVR that the practice contributes to the spread of disease by and among ferals.

A model resolution drawn up by the SUNY Buffalo Animal Law Pro Bono Project calls on localities to legalize the TNVR practice. Animal lovers pick up what supporters often call “community cats,” spay or neuter them at their own expense, and have the sterilized cats vaccinated against rabies. They are then returned to where they were picked up, and they are supposed to be fed by a private caretaker thereafter.

Board of Health President Susan DeLong said that neither Lewis nor Micoli was able to attend Thursday’s meeting, so a fuller discussion will be put off until the March 26 session.

The issue was referred to the Board of Health by Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, after he was approached by supporters of the concept.

On another topic, Deputy Health Director Victoria Pearson reported that the county has received $111,953 in Ebola funding from the state Health Department.

There have been no reports of the lethal virus in the county, and Pearson said she is awaiting guidance from Albany on how the money should be spent. She said she wished the county could use it to reimburse itself for the overtime expenses of sending a nurse to one of the three international bridges to deal with a traveler who had been to one of the African countries where the Ebola outbreak was centered.

Kathleen Cavagnaro, director of nursing services, said there were three or four incidents during the Ebola scare when agents of Customs and Border Protection summoned a nurse to take the temperature of a traveler who had been to an Ebola country.

In another matter, the board voted a $500 fine to the Niagara Rainbow Motel in Niagara Falls for having several violations of the county sanitary code during an inspection June 4. They included ungrounded electrical wires, missing or inoperable smoke detectors and other fire hazards, Environmental Health Director James J. Devald said. Repairs have been made, he added.