You asked: No easy fix for stray cat troubles

Published 10:24 pm Saturday, January 30, 2016

Q: What can be done about stray cats roaming the city?

A: Unfortunately, very little.

It’s no secret that cats, by and large, can take care of themselves. But they can also be a nuisance. They track dirt onto people’s cars as they climb up to catch the sun’s rays, and they use gardens and flower beds like litter boxes.

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There’s no shortage of cats roaming the neighborhoods of Brookhaven, but there’s little officials can do about it.

According to Brookhaven Animal Control Officer Roxanne Norton, domesticated cats technically fall under the same leash law as dogs, but currently the city animal shelter has no accommodations for cats.

“We can’t even pick up cats. There’s nowhere to put them or anything like that,” Norton said. “In the state of Mississippi, there’s really no law, because they can protect their own self and survive out there. They don’t depend on humans to take care of them. But if somebody owns the cat, and tends to let it run loose, they have to put it up.”

Animal control also faces a problem with feral cats — there’s nothing to be done about them. Cats cannot typically be socialized beyond a few weeks after they are born.

Norton said she does try to get cats to the Brookhaven Animal Rescue League, if there is room available.

There are currently two animal control officers in Brookhaven. Norton said that was enough to handle the streets for a town the size of Brookhaven, but it’s difficult to manage with her other duties.

“We do struggle. It’s almost impossible. You really need people to stay out here in the office to do the proper paperwork. I’m doing everything, … it’s very hard. It’s very hard.”

Norton also has no authority to actually ticket offenders who break the leash law.

“That is unusual,” Norton said. “We’re very different on a lot of things. Some places, you’re only supposed to keep animals for five days and get them to shelters or euthanize — whatever needs to be done. We’re still stuck on 10 days. We’re way behind and it needs to be updated on a lot of stuff. … Other towns, theirs are different.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said there are an estimated 20 million cats nation wide, but they do suggest a solution: trap-neuter-return programs.

“Free-roaming cats are trapped, sterilized, vaccinated, and returned to their colony of origin. … Trap-neuter-return programs have the ability to stabilize the population of a free-roaming cat colony and, over time, reduce it. At the same time, the objectionable spraying, vocalizing and fighting behaviors of cats in the colony are largely eliminated,” ASPCA said.

BARL currently does not have a running trap-neuter-return program in place. Beth Adcock with the organization said they do apply every year for grants to fund spay/neuter programs for dogs and cats, but they can only operate it as long as there are funds to do so, and they are not guaranteed to receive a grant.