Target 8: Hillsborough records lacking on trap, neuter, vaccinate program for feral cats

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County says its time to review its controversial community cat program.

Why now?

Because, three days ago, Target 8 started asking questions the county can’t answer. Questions like, where did the rabid cat come from that bit someone last week? Did it really get a rabies shot?

The trap, neuter, vaccinate and release program is designed to decrease the population of wild cats roaming Hillsborough County. The vaccination is to protect against rabies.

Target 8 found the county can’t answer the simplest questions about TNVR.

The reason it can’t tell us anything about that rabid cat is due to the fact the cat was not micro-chipped.

The county keeps very little data about a program it calls a success.

This year, Hillsborough County paid the Humane Society of Tampa Bay more than $18,000 to neuter, vaccinate, clip the ear then release 730 cats.

That is about all the county can tell you about the trap, neuter, vaccinate and release program in which it participates.

“We were going to know where these cats went, the number of cats that got released to a certain area, the numbers of cats that are still there after two years. What happened to those cats? Did they get eaten by coyotes? Did they get hit by cars? asked Dr. Christy Layton.

The Plant City veterinarian sits on Hillsborough’s Animal Advisory Committee.

“Did we start with 20 cats and now do we have 30? Did we start with 20 cats and now we have five? We don’t now the answer to that,” explained Dr. Layton.

Why not? The county has no records about where cats that it paid the the Humane Society to neuter and vaccinate end up. It can’t even prove the cats received a rabies vaccine.

“The community is at risk, because if they get bitten, we don’t know anything about the vaccine history of these cats,” said Dr. Layton.

Last week, a cat with a clipped ear turned up rabid. It bit someone trying to assist it.

“If you were the person that got bit, I think you’d think it was a big deal,” explained Dr. Layton. “You have to go through $3,000 worth of injections. It could potentially cause an auto-immune disease that would change your life. Yeah, I think that’s a big deal.”

Days after we raised questions about this rabid cat, Hillsborough Pet Resources Center director Scott Trebatoski announced, “We will begin to micro-chip those cats that pass through our shelter.”

In another issue, the PRC told commissioners that its cats would only be released to caregivers. That’s not happening either.

“There’s no way I can imagine the county commissioners ever being okay with having these cats going to a place where there’s nobody there to take care of them,” said Dr. Layton.

According to Trebatoski, “We are reviewing all aspects of the program.”

Dr. Layton thinks that might be a chore since PRC doesn’t maintain a list of locations of TNVR colonies, nor a list of caregivers. It has no idea where the cats end up and has no proof they were vaccinated.

If you have a problem that you think should be investigated call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808. Or contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

Follow Steve Andrews on Facebook

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