A no-kill plan for stray cats will be in place soon in Lexington County.
County Council agreed this week to make the change recommended by a major Midlands animal shelter.
Cats will be picked up, neutered and released again, with medical care provided at either the county-run shelter or Pawmetto Lifeline.
The new approach likely won’t start until spring after county leaders rewrite current rules on handling homeless pets.
Leaders of Pawmetto Lifeline sought the change, saying it’s more humane and effective in ending reproduction among stray cats than continuing to euthanize them.
The cats also would get health checkups before being released back to the area where they were found.
The benefits of the new approach make it “hard to say no,” Pawmetto Lifeline chief executive officer Denise Wilkinson said.
About 1,800 stray cats were euthanized in the county in the year ending June 30, shelter officials estimate.
Lexington County joins Columbia in a no-kill approach, with Wilkinson’s group asking Richland County to do so, too. Columbia just adopted its no-kill plan mid-December.
Almost 900 cats in Columbia and Richland County were euthanized between July 1 and Nov. 4 last year, 16 of which were strays, officials said. That compares with 1,115 cats that perished during the same four months in 2015, with almost 115 of those homeless, officials said.
Columbia handles animal services for Richland County, but each has different requirements on dealing with stray cats.
Last year, 279 homeless cats were spayed in West Columbia compared with approximately 100 in the year before that city’s no-kill plan began in 2012, officials said.
Lexington County handles stray pets and other animals everywhere in the 758-square-mile county except for Cayce and West Columbia, County Administrator Joe Mergo said.
Officials at the privately operated Pawmetto Lifeline, headquartered in the Harbison area, also want to supply humane traps to residents to capture unwanted cats roaming neighborhoods.