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Twenty minutes was the difference between San Bruno resident Brian Paxton saving his cat Tiger’s life or not seeing the feline again.
Thankfully for Paxton, he made the deadline despite being unaware of it. Tiger, who did not have an identification chip or a collar, was caught in a trap set on Belle Air Elementary School campus. The school began setting traps to lessen the occurrence of feral cats in the area due to health issues caused by animal poop where children play. While Paxton and the Homeless Cat Network agree there are health issues related to the animals in the children’s play area, they disagree with the plan of action taken by the district. The feline advocates argued a more humane option, through a partnership, is available. Peninsula Humane Society spokesman Scott Delucchi, however, checked with the school and the company trapping the cats and feels the efforts are reasonable.
Currently, traps are set out in the evenings. Cats are retrieved in the mornings then taken to the Peninsula Humane Society. Social cats are put up for adoption. Unsocial cats are at risk for euthanasia.
Jacqueline Dawley, who sits on the Homeless Cat Network board, contacted the school in September suggesting a partnership rather than the current practice. In an Oct. 19 e-mail to the district, Dawley explained “there are several alternatives, including post-sterilization relocation of the cats to an actively-managed feral cat colony.”
In an Oct. 12 e-mail response, Superintendent David Hutt explained the feral cat population is an issue the staff deals with daily. After a variety of possible solutions were unsuccessful, the district began contracting with a “humane and state recognized trapping agent in an effort to remove the offending cat population. ... What has been represented to the school district is that if the animals do not present a risk to the human population, then they are made available for adoption,” he wrote.
Thus far, the district has paid $1,687 to Critter Control for services. Hutt did not return calls for further comment.
Critter Control Owner Steve Meinecke began working on the campus Sept. 10. Traps are set out in the evening and checked every morning, Meinecke said. Fourteen cats have been trapped since Sept. 10, all are taken to the Peninsula Humane Society.
Removal of the cats is not just because of feces. Meinecke said the cats often carry different bugs like lice, fleas and ticks.
Once at the humane society, Delucchi said the society works with local groups willing to take the feral cats, fix them and then release the cats into a maintained feral cat community. Such is the case for cats caught on and near Belle Air. If cats brought in are social, they can be put up for adoption, Delucchi said. Unfortunately, many cats are unsocial, sick or severely injured which leaves little options. By state mandate, feral cats must be kept for four days, not including the one in which it is brought in. At that time, it becomes property of the humane society.
Paxton has lived next to the elementary school with cats since 1996 without an issue. In the recent year, he noticed an increase to the cat population and that the school tried a variety of methods to deal with the problem.
Traps were set out after the other methods failed. Paxton put a collar with identification on his other cat, Smoky, as a result of the incident. However, Smoky was caught and taken to the humane society. The collar was found by a Belle Air employee near where the traps were, somehow no longer on the cat.
Luckily, Paxton knew where to go this time. Now his cats have microchip identifications. The experience, however, has left the cats a bit shaken.
Delucchi noted there are ways to help ensure a pet is not caught up in the efforts to deal with a feral cat problem. First, keep the cat inside. Second, put identification on the cat. Third, put microchip identification on the cat. All animals taken to the Peninsula Humane Society are scanned for a microchip, he said.
PHS has offered Belle Air neighbors a discount on microchips to try and mediate problems like the ones Paxton ran into.
Credits: By Heather Murtagh - The Daily Journal