Ron Goulart

There seems to be a serious impasse concerning the feral cat situation in Fort Oglethorpe where the city has forbidden the feeding of the cats on its property and issued warnings to citizens and one citation to court.

While groups devoted to wildlife causes tend to oppose trap-neuter-vaccinate-release and controlled feeding programs, hundreds of other animal care organizations advocate TNR-feed.

A host of websites can be found claiming the expertise to support the positions of both sides. The information on the sites can be confusing. Statistics that apply largely to other countries are sometimes cited and partial information is often used.

For instance, many sites mention in opposing TNR the risk of rabies and cite numbers of people treated for the disease yet fail to mention that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the actual number of U.S. rabies cases in humans has been three a year since 2003. Sites can be vague about claims, as in failing to list causes of injuries leading to precautionary rabies treatments, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions.

All sides agree that the abandonment of cats is a problem. When the matter becomes a battle, as it has in Fort Oglethorpe, where citizens have been issued warnings and cited to court, concerned parties must make choices about the advice they’ll follow.

Fort Oglethorpe has chosen as its authority PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), according to city manager Ron Goulart. The city has posted a link to PETA on its Facebook page. The city has also posted a link to the American Bird Conservancy.

PETA opposes TNR-feed and advocates trapping all feral cats, finding homes for them when possible and euthanizing them when not, said PETA’s animal care and control specialist Teresa Chagrin. Chagrin acknowledged the difficulty of adopting out a feral cat but said that euthanization is more humane for the cats, who might die terrible, diseased deaths in the wild, and for the animals cats hunt and cause to die painfully.

Catoosa Citizens for Animal Care follows practices advocated by the Humane Society of the United States, said CCAC volunteer Lynne Hall, addressing the Fort Oglethorpe city council at its Jan. 25 meeting. The Humane Society supports TNR programs that include feeding and managing feral cat colonies, according to literature Hall shared with council members.

Yet another approach to viewing the problem is looking at programs already in existence. Many cities, universities and other entities operate TNR-feed programs. Some organizations claim these programs are failures while others consider them successful.

Disneyland engages in a TNR-feed program to help control its rat and mouse population, according to Disney’s cat website. When workers discovered a colony of feral cats in the theme park, a program was set up to manage the population. The park’s 200 cats roam freely at all times and, says the site, pose no danger to visitors because feral cats are, by nature, afraid of people. Food is always available to the cats. The program has also been applied to Disney California Adventure.

When asked to comment on Disney’s TNR-feed program, PETA’s Chagrin said, “Disney is an expert in cartoons, not animal care.”

In spite of PETA’s opposition to TNR, Goulart says the city has no problem with TNR but opposes feeding feral cats on city property.

Asked if the city was okay with people feeding feral cats on private property, Goulart said, “(The) city does not have jurisdiction until it becomes a nuisance.” A request for information on what constitutes a nuisance went unanswered.

In the meantime, Pam Shaw, who was cited under the nuisance ordinance for feeding cats on Fort Oglethorpe’s trails, faces a second appearance in court, Feb. 25 at 6 p.m.