A year to try out TNR

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 24, 2014

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Unanimously moving ahead with an ordinance change, the city of St. Clair Shores will give trap-neuter-release for feral cats a try over the next year, giving it the ability to continue to contract with the Macomb County Animal Shelter as a place for the city’s animal control officer to take cats.

City Council approved an amendment to a city ordinance dealing with the restraint of animals in order to proceed with TNR. Under the previous ordinance, dogs and cats were to be kept under restraint and were not allowed to leave the owner’s premises unless wearing a leash. The portions of the ordinance referring to cats were stricken at the Jan. 20 City Council meeting.

“Prior to 1988, there never was an ordinance in St. Clair Shores requiring the restraint of cats,” said City Attorney Robert Ihrie. “It wasn’t a problem.”

With the new change, he said, the county shelter would be able to neuter and release cats back into the city without violating city ordinance.

“That is what they required in order to become involved in St. Clair Shores again,” Ihrie said.

The 2014 contract with Macomb County Animal Control specified that the county would not accept stray, feral or domestic cats caught by any city that did not participate in its TNR program.

City Manager Phillip Ludos said the cats would all be scanned for microchips first, so if it is a personal domestic animal, that would be discovered before the surgery took place.

After the surgery, the cats would be placed back in the same location they were taken from to prevent them from trying to cross busy roads to get back to their home territory.

“I’m glad we’re going with this policy,” said Councilman Chris Vitale. “This makes us … a forward-thinking community.”

Macomb County Chief Animal Control Officer Jeff Randazzo said the county moved to a TNR policy in June and let city officials know of the change at that time. At that time, all Macomb County communities the shelter has jurisdiction over — which excludes Warren, Roseville, Sterling Heights, Eastpointe and St. Clair Shores — began to participate in the TNR program.

Randazzo said when he became chief, it only made sense to investigate what was being done with feral cats across the country.

“This county was euthanizing all these cities’ cats. The whole goal is to change things and make things better for the animals in our care,” he said. “It only made sense to not euthanize healthy animals if the animal is already thriving out there.”

To stop the growth of the feral cat population, any stray cats brought into the county that are candidates for TNR are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and then have an ear clipped — to identify the surgery as having been completed — by All About Animals animal rescue. Cats that are declawed, too young, too old or unhealthy are kept at the shelter for rehabilitation and adoption or for pull by a rescue organization.

“We do not have time limits here” for how long a cat can remain without being euthanized, he said. Only those extremely ill or extremely aggressive cats would not be kept for adoption.

City Council also agreed to change the wording of the ordinance to allow for retractable leashes on dogs; the ordinance previously called for a leash not to exceed six feet in length.

The cat restraint amendments will be in effect for a year, after which the ordinance will be brought back to City Council to review how the TNR program is working.

Diana Rascano of 4 Paws 1 Heart said this was a move in the right direction for St. Clair Shores.

“Most people don’t know the magnitude of what you did tonight,” she said after the vote. “There are still four cities — Sterling Heights, Warren, Eastpointe and Roseville — that are going to continue every day killing cats that are picked up by their animal control officers.

“We in St. Clair Shores have taken the lead to do something different.”

Mayor Kip Walby said this is the financially responsible way for the city to go, as well.

“It is actually cheaper this way than euthanizing,” he said. “We didn’t do it for the money, but it happens … it is less expensive.”

Randazzo said the county would not be charging the city for TNR through December 2014. He said they planned to meet with St. Clair Shores officials the week of Jan. 27 to finalize terms of the new contract.

“They’ve been euthanizing cats at the (county) facility since day one,” he said. “It’s still not working … so why not try to think outside the box.”