Responsible Cat Ownership Local HD Policy

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Robert Roe
Responsible Cat Ownership Local HD Policy
What’s On Your Mind?: 

The local health dept. has determined that while there are a wide variety of opinions on how to handle stray and ferral cats, that the policy of Responsible Cat Ownership is the best public health policy.

As part of the Local Performance Management Initiative (brought to you by NJDOH Office of Local Public Health and Rutgers Office of Continuing Professional Education), the Maplewood Department of Health used Rutgers’ practical QI approach to improve our outreach and education on responsible pet ownership and feral cats.

THE ISSUE:
Like many other communities, Maplewood has a large population of feral cats and has struggled with ways to control it. We often receive resident complaints about cats. Some residents feed the cats, but they don’t get them spayed or neutered or licensed, which creates cat colonies. A proliferation of cats can lead to increased rabies, quality of life issues (cats killing birds, using gardens as litter boxes, scratching people and pets, etc. ), and dozens of cats being killed by cars every year.

THE OPPORTUNITY:
We hope that by addressing responsible pet ownership, we can help humanely reduce the number of feral cats in the township. That can lessen the public health hazards the animals can present, as well as reduce the number of nuisance complaints received, thus improving the quality of life for residents. Officials can also improve the life of the animals by lowering the number who are injured or killed by cars and the number who are sheltered. This will help the local shelter, as well, which has a no kill policy and is always overcrowded with feral cats and kittens.

THE IMPROVEMENT:
We started by writing a new policy and plan for responsible cat ownership to guide our education and outreach efforts. The policy states clearly that cats must be licensed and vaccinated, that stray cats cannot be fed, and that feral cat colonies need to be reduced and removed. We plan to work with animal welfare organizations and veterinarians to hold regularly scheduled, low-cost spay/neuter clinics. We’re also planning a public education campaign to promote responsible cat ownership and tell people about the health hazards of feral cat colonies (both to people and to the cats themselves), as well as the number of cat deaths each year. This will ultimately help people become better cat owners and help reduce the feral cat population and the problems that go along with large colonies of feral cats.

PROMISING PRACTICES:
Try to form partnerships with animal welfare organizations that are willing to help with reasonable, workable solutions. Responsible pet ownership improves cats’ quality of life too!