New controversial TNR feral cat program divides animal lovers

Program aims to trap, neuter and return cats

TAMPA - You've probably never heard of the T.N.R.  It stands for trap, neuter, release.  

"No one wants the cats to live outdoors.  In an ideal world, they would all be inside on someone's lap," said local veterinarian Dr. Betsy Coville.

"Our goal is to find out where the cats are being fed, get in there and fix them," said Jeanine Cohen, Cat Crusaders Rescue.

Hillsborough County Commissioners approved the controversial new project 6-to-1.

But the acronym and what it stands for makes some just as unhappy as a you-know-what in a bathtub.

"The Community Cat Pilot Plan is merely a shell game of numbers which moves the killing of cats and additional wildlife to outside the shelter," said Dr. Christy Layton, President Hillsborough County Veterinary Medical Association.

"A vote for the TNR portion of Mr. Hallett's plan would require that you turn your back on the recommendations of the vast majority of the learned physicians, veterinarians, wildlife scientists and public health experts in this county or in this country in favor of the position that is only supported by the misinformed, anecdotal cacklings of the crazy cat ladies behind me," said opponent Russ Swisher.

Critics argue T.N.R. puts domestic animals into a harsh environment for the fight for their lives.

"It is difficult to describe the stomach-wrenching smell from some of the injuries that range from maggots and infected wounds to the smell of decaying flesh to bones protruding from the skin," said opponent Adrienne Swisher.

The practice has been a lauded abbreviation at Animal Coalition of Tampa or ACT for years.

"He has been trapped by someone and he is here for a neuter," explained ACT's Terri Romano.

The non-profit traps, neuters and returns cats to roam.

"A lot of this has been having to be done behind the scenes for people to do the right thing," said Romano.

And Animal Services Director Ian Hallett says it'll help curb the alternative -- the one that starts with an "e."

"It's just no longer acceptable to euthanize 65 percent of the animals that come to us, especially when so many of them, the majority of them, look just like your pet and my pet," said Hallett.

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