South Lebanon Township is the latest Lebanon County municipality to launch a trap, neuter, and release program to combat a rising problem with stray and feral cats.
Township manager Jamie Yiengst said in an email last week that she would “not say that the cat problem is widespread” in the South Lebanon area, but she knows of two or three neighborhoods that are dealing with colonies of seven to ten cats.
The township got involved in the TNR program because “the Humane Society no longer accepts cats and we had no other options when residents would call to complain of cats in their neighborhood,” Yiengst said. “If you don’t address the situation, the cats reproduce and the problem gets out of hand quickly.”
A TNR program serves to reduce cat populations over time by eliminating the cats’ ability to reproduce. It also stems the spread of disease by vaccinating cats for rabies and distemper before they’re released.
The township has two meetings scheduled in the next couple of weeks to help residents better understand how the program works.
To get the South Lebanon Community Cats program started, the township spoke with Cornwall Borough resident Jennifer Wentzel, who helped form Cornwall Community Cats in 2019. Wentzel helped put the township in touch with the Nobody’s Cats Foundation (nobodyscats.org), which is now providing resources to help both municipal programs.
Wentzel said she got involved after the borough passed an ordinance barring residents from feeding feral cats in an effort to combat the problem.
The Cornwall program partners with local veterinary clinics to reduce the price of services, she said, but fixing, vaccinating and ear-notching the cats still costs $35 to $70 per animal. The money is currently raised through donations, although Wentzel hopes the borough will help out in the future by offering vouchers to reduce the cost of surgery.
South Lebanon has already taken that step. Yiengst said Thursday that township supervisors have approved a voucher program to cover the cost of spay-neuter vaccination and ear-tipping.
“We had previously paid the Humane Society when cats were taken there by our residents,” she explained, “and since that is not happening, the funds can be directed to cover this cost. I would say we have around $875 budgeted for this.”
The township will approve each cat for treatment, she noted, “so we can monitor that they are stray cats and be aware of what we are spending.”
Wentzel, for one, is very happy to see another local government tackling the cat overpopulation problem.
“It’s very encouraging,” she said. “It involves changing the culture of thinking. Community cats are everybody’s cats. They’re not wild animals. Cats are a domesticated species. It’s about learning to live in harmony with them and doing what’s right for them. … I would love to see this expand to other communities.”
Wentzel said she has received enquiries from other municipalities in Lebanon County about starting similar programs. She noted that not all of the cats captured through the program are released; kittens that are young enough to be socialized are usually fostered and, if possible, adopted out to new homes.
In South Lebanon, township officials have scheduled two meetings to educate its citizens about the program.
The first is at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, and will “inform everyone how the program works and gauge interest,” Yiengst said. The second, at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, “will provide detailed steps to implement the program.” Both meetings will be held at the township building, 1800 S. 5th Ave., and are open to the public.
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