Miami undertaking campaign to capture stray cats
Miami, Florida, residents registered in the "Tip the Trapper" program will receive $15 for each eligible stray cat they bring in to city authorities for vaccination, sterilization and ear-tipping. EFE-EPA/File
By Alberto Domingo
Miami, Nov 19 (efe-epa).- The proliferation of ownerless cats on the streets of Miami, a city with some 400,000 such strays, has led the Miami-Dade County's Pet Adoption and Protection Center to ask for volunteers to collect the felines.
The Miami-Dade County Animal Services Department (ASD) is pursuing an initiative - the Tip the Trapper Initiative - to help humanely manage the county's stray cat population. Volunteer cat trappers will receive $15 per eligible cat that they bring in to be vaccinated, spayed and "ear-tipped" by ASD, meaning that the tip of the left ear is clipped off to alert authorities in the future that the cat has already been properly processed.
After the animals are processed in this way - which takes between 24-48 hours - they are released into the same area where they were originally captured, since cats that have lived outdoors are not usually suitable for adoption.
"We rely on our volunteer trappers to bring in outdoor cats for our TNVR program," said Miami-Dade Animal Services director Alex Muñoz. "When a cat comes in to be vaccinated and sterilized, we ear-tip him. Now for the first time, we're 'tipping' our trappers for their help."
"This initiative is to fight the problems of cats who roam around the neighborhoods without any controls and who continue to have kittens," Muñoz told EFE in an interview.
Before they begin capturing cats, the volunteers receive instruction on how to humanely nab the felines so that the animals are treated with respect. They are also trained not to capture cats weighing less than 3 pounds (1.4 kg), since below that weight cats are not old enough to be separated from their mothers.
The initiative, Muñoz said, is also designed to "help those people who trap the cats and spend a lot of time, a lot of personal resources and go out at night to do this work."
Muñoz said that one woman had captured more than 1,000 cats over the past year and turned them in to the specialized animal protection center, located in the municipality of Doral in the Greater Miami area.
Although it has only been under way for a short time, the initiative is already showing results and the number of street cats being brought into the center each day has risen by 20 percent.
Some 10,000 cats have already been sterilized.
In addition, the animals are vaccinated against rabies and other common diseases, and if any of them are suffering from health problems at the time of their capture they receive treatment until they recover before they are released.
"These are animals that are already living on the street without any medical care and which really don't have a veterinarian to monitor them with annual checkups. Thus, at least we can give them a checkup," Muñoz said.
The program is part of a strategy launched by the ASD in 2012 seeking to increase the vaccination of pets in South Florida.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are more than 58 million pet cats in the United States, but there are many more wild cats or stray cats that are not counted.
Some cities, like New York, have launched aggressive programs to exterminate as many stray cats as possible, given that the street cat population there is out of control.
Miami is undertaking its cat control program as a preventive measure to keep the city - where the climate favors the proliferation of stray cats - from developing a problem like that of New York.
The Pet Adoption and Protection Center - with its more than 200 employees - also has a program to vaccinate coyotes, foxes and raccoons, which receives public financing from the county.
Soon, the county will begin cooperating with the city of Miami Beach to expand the initiative and get the population of stray cats there under control.