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Idaho Falls announces new plan to deal with feral cat problem

The city of Idaho Falls is working on a solution to the feral cat problem Currently, Animal Services says there are about 2,500 feral cats in the city living in 10 to 20 different cat colonies.

Under a new plan starting May 1, Animal Services will use a program called TNR or trap, neuter and release. The program works by putting out live traps capture the cats and then takes them in and spays or neuters the cat and then releases the cat into the same area it was caught in.

“The success rate is almost 100 percent,” Irene Brown, Animal Services manager, said. “I don’t know any communities that have gone out at it at full force that haven’t seen success.”

In addition to cutting down on the number of feral cats roaming the city, Brown thinks the TNR program will help cut down on the number of cats being put down. Currently, 60 percent of cats at the shelter have to be put down. That’s significantly higher than the less than 2 percent of dogs that are put down.

“It doesn’t happen overnight, obviously,” Brown said. “It is a five to six-year process before you are actually seeing really good results.”

The new program is scheduled to start May 1 when Animal Services staff will let people living in areas of the colonies of the plan. Once it starts, the new program is expected to result in 100 fewer cats being put down in 2017.

Volunteers will set the traps and local veterinarians will do the work at a reduced cost. Once the cats have been sterilized, they will be released into the same area in which they were caught.

“We will ask for the public’s help,” Brown said. “We don’t know where every colony is.”

The city currently spends $30,000 to $40,000 a year to euthanize the cats. The TNR program will cost about the same amount of money. The city has secured $15,000 to help pay for the sterilization of 200 cats this year. Animal Services is already working on securing money for next year.

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