The Athens-Clarke County Commission's decision to pull funding for the city's feral cat program may not affect sterilization and vaccination efforts.
Athens commissioners elimated $10,000 alloted toward people who care for feral cat colonies from its 2013 budget. , which includes animal control, began issuing vouchers in 2010 to reimburse citizens who volunteered to have feral cats spayed or neutered.
The program divides local feral cat populations into six "colonies" and uses the "trap-neuter-release" [TNR] method to decrease reproduction.
Central Services Director David Fluck, who oversees in Athens, said only two people had applied to use the program this year. He also said people interested in participating in the program's TNR efforts will still be able take care of a cat colonies.
"The way the program was set up a few years ago was that if people wanted to help feral animals in their area, have them spayed or neutered, they could register to take care of a cat colony," Fluck said. "The ordinance that allows for feral cat colonies is still there. People can still go in and do TNR in these cat colonies. It's just that the money that was given to subsidize the spaying and neutering is no longer there."
Fluck said there was no way to estimate feral cat populations in Athens, or project how the program's defunding might affect cat colonies.
"We know the cats are out there, but we don't know how many," Fluck said. "What you could argue, though, is for those that are trapped and neutered, that's less feral cats because that's less animals that are being allowed to reproduce."
Some local feral cat advocates say the defunding will not affect efforts to control animal populations, however.
Kelly Bettinger, a coordinator at Campus Cats, which works to reduce the number of homeless cats on the campus, said government reimbursement was only a small part of community efforts to control cat populations.
"It really is not a big deal," Bettinger said. "We had never asked for funding. That was a pleasant surprise that was tacked on. It was only $10,000, and that was just a drop in the bucket compared to what people were doing on their own."
Citizens can take feral cats to several low-cost clinics, including , Madison Oglethorpe Animal Shelter and Catlanta. Some of these programs will neuter and vaccinate a cat for about $35, Bettinger said.
"There's plenty of vets who will spay and neuter feral cats," she said. "And with the resources we have not only at Athens Regional but also Madison Oglethorpe and Catlanta, there's no reason people can't take care of two or three cats."