SEA BRIGHT’S CRACKIN’ DOWN ON CATS

sb-cat

Felines like the one shown here, near the popular cat club of the Shrewsbury River, are to be rounded up, fixed and tagged in an effort to control the cat population in Sea Bright. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Monmouth County SPCA is rolling out a new program to bring feral cat populations under control. And is there a better place to start it than Sea Bright, where at times it seems like the number of wild cats rivals the number of residents?

The borough, which got serious about cracking down on its cat problem when it formed a “cat committee” last year, will be the subject of a pilot “trap-neuter-release” program administered by the county SPCA.

In the last couple of years, an increasing number of cats has been tramping around the ocean beaches and down by the Shrewsbury River, resulting in a number of complaints from neighbors and residents,said councilwoman Dina Long. In that time, the borough has struggled with the situation, she told redbankgreen, because there are people in town — “caregivers,” Long calls them — who leave food for the cats and take care of them to a certain degree. Because most, if not all, of the cats aren’t fixed, their number keeps growing.

What the SPCA does, Long said, is work with the caretakers in town and bring a sense of order to the town’s ever-increasing cat colonies.

“It formalizes and organizes something that has been done on a volunteer basis for years,” Long said.

As the title of the program clearly suggests, the association will round up Sea Bright’s furry felines, spay or neuter them, and plant a microchip in the napes of their necks before sending them back into town.

The idea is to control breeding. But the program, combined with a new ordinance, will also allow officials to keep tabs on pets.

The local law, expected to be passed by the end of the month, will hold cat owners more responsible than it has in the past. By the ordinance, owners of non-neutered cats won’t be allowed to let them outside unsupervised. Owners also aren’t allowed to abandon their cats.

Caretakers, who will register with the SPCA, are also held responsible. The ordinance says they must keep up on the cats’ health and behavior, keep their living areas clean and provide annual reports to the association.

This, Long said, is what borough officials wanted when they created the cat committee: accountability and some level of control over its overcrowding of cats.

“We were trying to find a way to humanely deal with the cats and also satisfy the residents with their concerns,” Long said. “This program from the Monmouth County SPCA is really like a gift from heaven.”

Getting the program started in town is contingent upon the ordinance being passed, Long said. It was introduced Tuesday night and is expected to come up for a final vote at the end of the month.

Long said the SPCA “wants to get started right away,” so June seems a likely timeframe to see a lot of cats being hauled away.

Long said the program will be promoted throughout the borough soon.