During Wednesday night's Bainbridge town council meeting, Veterinarian Nancy Ferguson from S.P.O.T told council members Bonnie Osborn, Richard Cope and Naomi Barker they could make history by adopting an ordinance requiring animals to be spayed or neutered in Bainbridge.
"You guys are in a position to make history. I see a major sense of togetherness in your town," said Ferguson.
She and veterinary technician Shannon Crigger were at the town council meeting to explain about a program they work with called Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR).
Bainbridge has been discussing putting an ordinance in effect in the town for several months. The town has a large population of feral cats.
"Until we do something to shame them (Putnam County officials), they won't do a thing," said Cope referring to there being no financial support for animal control by the county or other towns.
"A program like this can greatly benefit a community that has a feral cat problem," said Crigger.
Feral cats originate primarily from lost or abandoned pet cats that have not been sterilized. Left on their own, the cats and their offspring tend to live in groups known as colonies.
"Feral cats are at a spot because the environment provides food and shelter for them. Removing one group just opens the area up for another to move in," added Crigger.
The best action is to use live traps to catch the animals, have them sterilized and then re-release them back where they came from.
"It takes a little longer, but it is a better way to stop the problem. Re-releasing them keeps other feral cats from moving into the area and keeping it an ongoing problem. The sterilized animals eventually die, but they don't produce any more cats. Over time the problem is reduced," she said.
Ferals that are captured, sterilized and re-released get a tiny notch in their ear to mark them as altered.
Council members directed the town attorney to draft a "simple" ordinance that would allow any animal found on another person's property to be trapped, and taken to S.P.O.T for spaying or neutering. They would receive a rabies shot and an ear notch and re-released.
Any owners with animals running at large could be held responsible for the costs.
Some discussion centered on how the town would pay for the feral cats being fixed. Town Clerk Jason Hartman informed the council that there was money available from their animal control budget.
"I think the Bainbridge Improvement Society is also interested in helping with some sort of program," said Hartman.
Council members reiterated that the idea behind the ordinance was to help out both people and animals.
"Feral cats are out among skunks and raccoons that may have been exposed to rabies. The TNR program includes rabies vaccinations," said Crigger.
S.P.O.T. will offer a vaccination clinic at Town Hall on Nov. 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They will have information about feral cats and the TNR program as well as other literature.
S.P.O.T. is a non-profit spay neuter clinic offering high quality, low cost sterilization. The cost to sterilize a dog (male or female) is $55. Female cats cost $40 and male cats are $35. Feral cat sterilization costs $40 and includes rabies and ear tip. Vaccinations are $10 each.
It is located in Cloverdale at the intersection of S.R. 231 and S.R. 42. They can be reached at (765) 795-4336.
The Bainbridge Town Council meets on the second Wednesday of the month at Town Hall.