‘No amazing magic’ when it comes to fixing feral cat problem in Carter County

Published 8:28 am Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter (ECCAS), represented by its director, Shannon Posada, hosted an event Monday night in the county courthouse that focused on the area’s feral cat problem which featured speakers from Asheville, N.C., and a shelter director from the Johnson City/Washington County facility, all of whom offered possible solutions to Carter County’s ongoing feral cat population.

Eric Phelps, field operations manager of Asheville’s Brother Wolf, an animal rescue organization, started off the gathering by describing at length how his organization operates and so far, it has been successful.

While Phelps stopped short of saying such a plan would work in Carter County, he went on to explain how he and his organization have worked with other organizations in the Asheville area to bring the feral cat problem under control by “achieving a no-kill community.”

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The process, as described by Phelps and echoed by others at the event, involves trapping, neutering and then releasing (TNR). The goal is to always try and release them back to where they were trapped as they will likely stay there. Sometimes this is not always possible because some of the cats are trapped by people who do not want the animals returned.

Most people’s reluctance to allow the cats to be returned stems from the misconception that they are adoptable. “Some of the people bring in these cats… are shocked that [shelters] cannot work some kind of amazing magic…and the cats would be adoptable,” said Phelps. They are also surprised that they are in danger of being killed at the shelter, he added.

Phelps says that once people learn that the cats are not adoptable and are at risk of being killed, they are usually more likely to allow them to return, especially if they have been fixed.

Tammy Davis, director of the Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter since 2012, also spoke about her facility’s efforts to reduce the number of unwanted cats being born by requiring that the mother cat be spayed before accepting new litters brought in repeatedly by the same people.

Also, while the Johnson City located facility is not a designated no-kill shelter, they have reduced the number of euthanasia from over 3,000 in 2012 to 400 in 2018 thanks largely in part to the TNR program. Davis said the old way of catching and killing is gone.

The view from those in attendance was that one of the biggest problems with the implementation of a TNR on the same scale as presented by the seminar, is the shortage of veterinarians willing to neuter feral cats in an expedited and/or affordable fashion.

Some Carter County residents, who have been trying to help start a feasible TNR program, said they have been told by some local veterinarians when calling to set an appointment that they had a contract with Johnson City and that residents would have to wait for 7 to 10 days or longer to have a feral cat fixed.

When asked, both shelter directors agreed that what was needed is an East Tennessee owned and operated spay and neuter clinic, where each county would be appointed a day to have their feral cats fixed.

People wanting to (or needing) help can get further information by calling the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter at (423) 547-6359, and Ziggy’s Second Chance Network via email at ziggyssecondchancenetwork@gmail.com