8 On Your Side Investigation: Is trap-neuter-release program working for Tampa Bay?

TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – Since 2007, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay has trapped, neutered and released about 47,000 feral cats, including several in Cindie Leeman’s South Tampa neighborhood.

Leeman, a pet owner, complains her yard is like a giant litter box.

“So for me to try to work outside here in my yard, it becomes personal when I step in their cat stuff and then I have to bring it into my house,” explained Cindie.

The problem, she believes, is multiplying.

“We have a lot of abandoned houses so we have babies born in the backyard all the time,” she said.

Sherry Silk, of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, estimates that there are 200,000 feral cats in Hillsborough county, another 200,000 in Pinellas.

“It’s people’s fault for leaving the cats behind, thinking nothing of moving away and leaving them abandoned, unsterilized,” stated Sherry.

Every Monday the Humane Society of Tampa Bay spays or neuters scores of cats.  Silk said the organization is now turning away about 75 cats a month, instead of what used to be 400.

“I can’t scientifically tell you, but I do know the numbers are coming down. We’re fostering fewer kittens that are being born,” she added.

In 2014 Hillsborough county Pet Resources teamed up with the Humane Society’s TNVR (Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Return) program.  The county was to provide up to 4,000 cats, it delivered only 1,800.

“The ultimate long-term goal is to see the outdoor population decline and ideally go away. I don’t when that is going to happen,” Scott Trebatoski with Pet Resources Center said.

There are a lot of unknowns with TNVR.  What Cindie Leeman does know is that feral cats are making her life miserable.

‘I have to worry about my dogs in the backyard because they’re constantly out there.  My son’s window has to stay closed because the urine smell is very strong,” Cindie said.

Sherry Silk points out, the program isn’t perfect but they are killing fewer cats.  According to the county, it euthanized about 20,000 cats in 2005.  Through aggressive adoption and rescue programs and the trap neuter and release,  it claims it euthanized 1100 cats last year.

One question no one seems to be able to answer is what happens to these cats once they are released.

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