Columbia is ready to encourage people who like feral cats to get them spayed or neutered and returned to their favorite grounds as a better way of controlling the stray population.
The idea is to reduce the number of feral cats that are euthanized and allow them to naturally police their home turf and live out their lives in those locations, said Marli Drum, the city’s director of animal services.
By returning cats to their turf, the animal shelter hopes to reduce how many felines are euthanized and control their population because the animals go back unable to reproduce, she said.
“It’s a better way ... over time,” Drum said Monday in advance of a final City Council vote Tuesday on the program, along with other changes in animal laws. “Only 2 percent of cats that come to our shelter are actually reclaimed by their owners.”
If council approves the program, returned cats would be less likely to cause nuisances such as marking their territory with urine as well as fighting and yowling during mating season, Drum said. Initially, the program will not apply to feral cats from Richland County.
The city tried out the program this summer as an alternative to merely trapping and euthanizing them, she said.
Almost 900 cats were euthanized between July 1 and Nov. 4 –16 of which were strays, Drum said. That compares to 1,115 cats killed during the same four months in 2015 before the pilot program. Almost 115 of those were feral, she said.
To promote the program, animal control officials will circulate fliers.
The cat plan is like what’s been done in nearby West Columbia since 2012.
Since the start of this year, 41 homeless cats have been treated similarly in the Lexington County city compared to approximately 100 in the year before the program began, West Columbia officials said.
In another proposed change in animal laws, Columbia residents would be allowed to have three dogs before having to meet standards of a kennel. That would raise the cap from two.
Additionally, Columbians who fail to take care of their pets would face consequences faster because animal control officers, not police, would write tickets. Those tickets can be enforced more quickly through city court rather than state courts as is the case if police write the ticket, Drum said.
“This just will allow us to do our jobs more efficiently,” she said. The penalty can be as much as a $500 fine and 30 days in jail per offense.
Another change that will allow for quicker enforcement by spelling out in city law that it’s illegal to have an aggressive animal that is not confined or for the animal to leave its premises unless it is muzzled or otherwise restrained.
Animal control officers would write tickets that would go to city court, where the maximum penalty is $500 and 30 days, Drum said.
Staff writer Tim Flach contributed.
If you go
Columbia City Council meets twice on Tuesday at City Hall.
WHEN: 2 p.m. work session; 6 p.m. regular meeting.
WHERE: Council chambers, third floor of City Hall, 1737 Main St.