Every other weekend during the warmer months, Samantha Stephens, of Caseyville, sets live traps in Washington Park, East St. Louis and Belleville in hopes of capturing feral cats.
When Stephens is able to trap cats, the caseworker who works with disabled people, will bring the cat home, and then on the next day bring it to Carol House Quick Fix in St. Louis where the cat is spayed or neutered. After another day, Stephens brings the cat back to where she found it and releases it.
“No one else is doing it, and I felt there’s a need for it,” Stephens said.
After she releases the feral cats, Stephens said she does follow up and regularly feeds them.
“I believe when you spay and neuter an animal, and they don’t have a caregiver, you should feed them,” Stephens said.
Technically, Stephens trapping and releasing a cat isn’t allowed, but St. Clair County is considering giving its blessing to the practice.
St. Clair County is considering starting a trap and release program in order to help control the feral cat population.
“It’s basically going to be, handled by caregivers rather than county employees,” said James Jacquot, the director of Animal Services for the county. “We’ll be making it legal for what a lot are doing.”
The proposed ordinance would allow people to trap cats, have them spayed or neutered and then release them in unincorporated parts of the county.
“A lot (of people) have been doing it under the cloak of darkness,” Jacquot said.
The purpose of the program is to reduce the feral cat population in the county.
When a feral cat is trapped, it has to be sterilized, have its ear tipped while under anesthesia, and vaccinated for rabies, under the proposed ordinance.
The removal of a quarter-inch of a cat’s ear would signify the cat has been sterilized and vaccinated for rabies.
If the cat is visibly injured or diseased and appears to be suffering and the cat cannot be cured and released, transferred to a humane society or animal rescue, then the animal can be euthanized, under the proposal. Caregivers would have to provide proper nutrition, adequate water and medical care as needed.
The proposed ordinance and program would allow cat caregivers to handle the program, rather than county employees.
“We’ll be making it legal for what a lot are doing,” Jacquot said during a recent Animal Services Committee meeting.
The county wants to try to get municipalities on board as well, Jacquot said.
“It’s really in its infancy stage,” Jacquot said. “There’s a lot to do to get started.”
People still need to identify areas with cat problems and numbers of cats in those areas.
St. Clair County Assistant State’s Attorney Lisa Porter said she thinks the county program will be limited by its unincorporated boundaries and added a challenge would be is cats don’t stay within borders.
“It would be preferable we start out small, just in the county,” Porter said. “We want to try to get other municipalities on board. Baby steps.”