After suspending the official feral cat trap-neuter-release program in October, Port Orange officials are giving serious consideration to restoring some version of it.

A special Port Orange City Council workshop Jan. 9 examined the program.

Unlike a City Council meeting where the fur was flying on the topic, most citizens and council members present seemed to agree a clear TNR and feral cat plan is needed. It probably didn’t hurt the ambiance that City Manager Jake Johansson was drinking water out of his “I’m a cat person” mug and Assistant City Manager Alan Rosen was wearing cat socks, or that Councilwoman Marilyn Ford was handing out cat cutout cookies.

Assistant City Manager Alan Rosen presented a detailed plan that included the city entering a contract with Halifax Humane Society's Redinger Clinic for spaying and neutering.

Other details were a periodic cat colony census, a look at in-source management of the TNR program, required training for colony caregivers, adopting a feeding ordinance, increasing penalties for pet abandonment, landlords obtaining spay/neuter documents and pet deposits, increasing the pet license fee to support TNR, allowing donations with pet licenses for TNR and created a low-cost spay/neuter program.

Dr. Sara Pizano, the founder of Team Shelter USA, pleaded the case for TNR.

Dr. Pizano has completed more than 100 shelter and community assessments, helping many organizations end euthanasia as population control. She was accompanied by Cameron Moore, part of the team that created Target Zero, and who joined the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida as Million Cat Challenge Program Manager.

Local experts Miguel Abi-hassan, Halifax Humane Society Executive Director and Pat Mihalic from CCFAW also spoke on the need for TNR to be restored as did several citizens.

“Do I care about the welfare of the cats? You bet,” Mr. Johansson said. “But my mandate as I understand it is to decrease the number of feral cats in Port Orange. I am hoping both of those can run concurrently. The biggest dent is the human issue. Cats don’t read ordinances. Humans do.”

At the end of the four-hour workshop Mayor Don Burnette said, “I think that’s the consensus; we are moving forward with some element of TNR as part of our overall feral cat policy and that the accountability piece has to be in place.”

Challenges were discussed, such as cats near businesses or homes that didn’t want them there, and colonies on school or church grounds with Mr. Johansson stating he felt the problem could be solved while still protecting cats.

“Rogue” cat feeding (people feeding cats that are not part of a colony) also would be addressed. People often feed cats, but don’t spay or neuter them, and many household cats are allowed to roam free outside.

Animal abandonment also was a hot topic for Councilman Chase Tramont, who said, “Abandonment is abuse. I would go as high as $5,000 for (someone) abandoning an animal.”

As a workshop for discussion purposes, nothing could be voted on. The proposals will have to be formally approved at a regular City Council meeting.

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