The North Bergen Board of Commissioners has unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance establishing a trap, neuter, and release program for feral cats.
Township Administrator Janet Castro had been developing the program since March 2020, when she was still health officer.
“We’ve been working on the trap, neuter, release program for a little over two years now,” Castro said at the Sept. 8 meeting. “We actually had something in place right before COVID hit.”
In January of this year, officials announced the plan has been on hold due to COVID. No staffing or resources were available because health department personnel were stretched thin, working to contain the virus.
The township now anticipates an Oct. 1 start date.
The township will assess the results and details as the project moves forward. For now, it’s a one-year trial program funded by the township. Castro and North Bergen Health Officer Tina Mereos will determine whether to continue the program.
“The idea is to implement this pilot program and work on funding resources for a more permanent solution for the feral cat concerns that we have in town,” Castro said.
Feral cat colonies are tolerated as long as they do not exceed six feral cats per colony; a caregiver is responsible for each feral cat colony; the feral cat colony and caregiver must be registered and approved by the health officer; and the caregiver and colony follow all rules and regulations.
The health officer can limit the number of feral cat colonies.
Unpaid registered volunteer caregivers are responsible for colonies.
Caregivers must register the feral cat colony with the township and obtain approval; vaccinate the colony for rabies and other necessary vaccinations; take steps to get all feral cats in the colony neutered; observe the colony for illnesses and unusual behavior; obtain proper medical attention for any cat that requires it; set up consistent and monitored feeding schedules where all remaining food must be removed daily; provide water and shelter; compile and maintain records of the colony; undergo any necessary training; “ear tip” all colony cats with a single cut to the left ear; and resolve complaints.
Written approval must be obtained by the owner of any property on which feral cat colonies are located, and caregivers must have access. Kittens must be placed in homes or animal shelters after they’ve been weaned.
A semiannual written report must be submitted to the health officer.
Removing cats and colonies
Only under certain circumstances can feral cats and or colonies be removed.
In an emergency, the animal control officer may remove the cat, but within 24 hours the township must provide caregivers with notice of the cat’s whereabouts and allow them to retrieve the cat for treatment, return, or relocation.
The township reserves the right to seize feral cats that have not been vaccinated against rabies; are showing signs of disease; or are creating a nuisance. Feral cats and or colonies can be removed if the caregiver does not comply with the requirements, and a replacement caregiver is not designated within ten days.
Caregivers can be removed or replaced if they fail to comply with regulations. Approvals can be withdrawn for caregivers, feral cat colonies, and committee members at any time. Violations of the ordinance can range from $50 to $500.
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