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Trap, neuter, release programs for feral cats get approved

Rowan County Commissioners on Monday gave a thumbs up to allowing trap, neuter and release programs for feral cats.

The programs would allow private groups to trap feral cats, spay or neuter the animals and release them back to the original location. Speaking to commissioners on Monday, local veterinarian Rebekah Julian said the programs would reduce the birth rate and disease among wild, or feral, cats. Julian is a board member of the nonprofit No Pet Left Behind. She said the organization would run a trap, neuter and release program.

The program won’t cost Rowan County government any money, she said. Instead, No Pet Left Behind would pay for its program through grants and private donations.

Although commissioners approved the trap, neuter and release, the county will still have to update its ordinances to exempt cats from leash laws. Commissioners Craig Pierce, who expressed support for the idea, said changing ordinances would only require the county to add “except cats” to its leash law. Commissioners will be required to have a public hearing for changing the leash law during a later meeting. Kannapolis already exempts cats from its leash law, Pierce said.

Once commissioners approve the leash law change, it would effectively make feral cat colonies legal in Rowan County. The colonies are used on farms to help control rodent populations. Colonies often exist in cities, too, Julian said.

Commissioners raised a bevy of varied questions during the meeting. Commissioner Mike Caskey and Vice Chairman Jim Greene asked whether a trap, neuter and release program would result in unwanted cats being placed back on person’s private property.

“If someone does not want (cats) on their property, we would not place them on their property,” Julian said.

Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds asked what might happen to trapped cats that are sick. Julian said the cats would be available on a case-by-case basis and may have to be euthanized.

Julian said feral cat colonies would have to be registered or recognized. Community volunteers would help facilitate concerns and complaints about colonies, she said.

She said some overlap may exist between the programs and Rowan County Animal Control. The two, however, would work in conjunction in some instances, according to Julian’s presentation on Monday.

In other business from Monday’s meeting:

• Commissioners approved a motion allowing County Manager Aaron Church to draft a contract with Talbert Bright and Ellington to oversee construction of a $2 million hangar at the Rowan county Airport.

Pierce said he wanted to see a formal contract to avoid any mistakes.

“I think we owe it to the citizens to read all contracts before we sign them,” Pierce said.

• Commissioners declared a portion of property off of Heilig Road as surplus.

Rowan-Salisbury School System Assistant Superintendent for Operations Anthony Vann said the property would be used in a land swap to allow the school system’s transportation department to access another piece of property without having to route buses onto Heilig Road and Old concord Road.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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