If you’re annoyed by feral cats in your neighborhood and can catch one, the city is offering a convenient drop-off place to have it sterilized and vaccinated for rabies.
The services are free if you live in the east Arlington ZIP codes of 76010 or 76014 — the area the city has determined to have the most feral cats.
Elsewhere in Arlington, feral cats and other strays, as well as adopted outdoor cats, are eligible for low-cost neutering and vaccinations at clinics in Burleson and Hurst that are operated by the Texas Coalition for Animal Protection, a nonprofit based in North Texas.
The Arlington Animal Services Center campaign targeting the two ZIP Codes, funded by a $41,000 grant from PetSmart Charities in 2013, is a trap-neuter-return program. The cats are released back into their neighborhoods after having their left ear clipped at the very tip, marking them as no longer a reproduction risk.
Neuter-and-return programs have been growing in popularity, said Robert Knox, business development director for TCAP. He believes it’s helping to ease the overpopulation of feral cats without relying on euthanasia.
“It’s a humane approach to handling the feral cat population,” Knox said.
We’re hoping that anyone who has feral cats – even if you don’t live in those ZIP Codes – would go ahead and get your animals treated at a low cost.
Chris Huff, director of city animal services
As part of its grant, which was first put to use in December, the city will host Feral Cat Fridays on April 15, May 20 and June 17, and perhaps another one in July as long as funding permits, said Chris Huff, animal services manager.
Since residents of the 30,000 homes in the two ZIP codes already have access to free trap-neuter-return services, Feral Cat Fridays mainly add the benefit of nearby drop-off locations. A drivers license or other proof of residency in one of the ZIP codes must be presented, and the cats must be confined in a carrier. TCAP doesn’t require an appointment but asks that people call 940-566-5551 to give notice so members can better prepare.
“We’re hoping that anyone who has feral cats — even if outside those ZIP Codes — will have them altered at a low cost,” Huff said. “Once an appointment is made with TCAP, the normal altering, rabies vaccination and ear-tip can be done for as low as $25.”
For the April event, residents who have trapped or scooped up feral cats can hand them off to volunteers at TCAP’s mobile services van, which will be parked outside the Hugh Smith Recreation Center. Cat drop-off is between 8 and 9 a.m., and pickup is at 4 p.m.
Those are high-intake areas for the city. TNR is trying to take care of the cat population. They keep coming to the (city) shelter, and they’re trying to decrease those numbers.
Stacey Schumacher , executive director of Texas Coalition for Animal Protection
“Those are high-intake areas for the city,” said Stacey Schumacher, executive director of TCAP. Trap-neuter-return “is trying to take care of the cat population. They keep coming to the [city] shelter, and they’re trying to decrease those numbers.”
Not everyone supports trap-neuter-return. Mainly, opponents don’t want the cats back in their neighborhoods because of the threat to birds. Huff said the city and animal groups are educating residents about cat-deterrence products on the market, which they say are effective at keeping cats out of yards. Most use ultrasonic sound, mild chemical repellants or motion-activated, high-powered water sprays.
Like them or not, trap-neuter-return programs appear to be helping. The Arlington Animal Services program had more than 300 cats neutered or spayed in the past three months toward a total target of about 700 cats by the summer.
The number of cats taken in by the animal center has declined sharply from a high of 5,680 cats in 2012 to a low of 3,832 cats in 2015. The number of cats euthanized at the city shelter has declined from an average of 3,000 before the current TNR program started in 2013 to fewer than 1,000 cats a year. About 6,000 cats have been spayed or neutered since August 2013.
The number of cats taken in by the animal center has declined sharply from a high of 5,680 cats in 2012 to a low of 3,832 cats in 2015, according to statistics compiled by the Friends of Arlington Animal Services.
Huff said the number of cats euthanized at the city shelter has declined from an average of 3,000 before the current trap-neuter-return program started in 2013 to fewer than 1,000 cats a year.
Kelli Eaves, board member and past co-director of the Friends charity, estimates that about 6,000 cats have been spayed or neutered since August 2013, when a City Council resolution allowed the city to participate in trap-neuter-return projects. The resolution also excused TNR cats from the city’s leash law, allowing them to roam freely outdoors. And it opened the door to many TNR-related grants.
The city animal center has capitalized on a variety of grants. The Arlington Tomorrow Foundation has awarded $343,250 in eight grants since 2008. The largest awarded were $125,000 for a mobile pet adoption unit and $78,000 to add a shade structure and an agility course for dogs at the center. PetSmart Charities, in addition to the current $41,000 grant, previously gave a pair of $10,000 grants for a free TNR program and treatment for dogs positive for heartworms, Huff said.
The payoff of TNR programs is obvious, but animal groups need to be diligent about feral cats, Eaves said.
“Once they get fixed, there’s no more of the howling and mating and fighting,” Eaves said. “But since we’ve had such a warm winter, this will be a challenging kitten season, and it is important to get as many cats in Arlington spayed and neutered before there is a feline population boom.”
To participate in Feral Cat Fridays for free trap-neuter-return services, residents must live in the 76010 or 76014 ZIP codes in east Arlington. The cats must be delivered to a drop-off site between 8 and 9 a.m. and picked up by 4 p.m. Residents can pick up the cats or leave them for a charity to return them to their neighborhoods. Here are the three upcoming events:
- April 15: Hugh Smith Recreation Center, 1815 New York Ave.
- May 20: Meadowbrook Recreation Center, 1300 Dugan St.
- June 17: Arlington Animal Services Center, 1000 SE Green Oaks Blvd.
To find more information about low-cost or free sterilization and vaccinations of feral cats, or to donate time or money to trap-neuter-return or other programs, check out the websites of Arlington Animal Services Center, Friends of Arlington Animal Services , and Texas Coalition for Animal Protection.