The Fayette County Board of Commissioners has put its support behind a new program from the Fayette County Humane Society which, based on a successful six month trial, could curb stray cat populations at no cost to taxpayers.

Kimberly Davis explained the “Trap-Neuter-Release,” or TNR program, at the most recent commission meeting. She was joined by Officer Rani Rathburn from Fayette County Animal Control, who expressed support for TNR.

As of now, Animal Control has a policy of trapping and euthanizing stray and feral cats when those cats can’t be adopted out. The TNR program, on the other hand, involves neutering and immunizing stray cat populations and then returning them to the location they were found. Davis said most homeowners and business owners are amenable to having a few stray cats around, but don’t want to see them multiply.

“The concept is, if there’s four cats living behind the McDonald’s dumpster, nobody cares if there’s four cats, but 100 cats is not going to work,” Davis said.

The Humane Society has been piloting the program at four sites in the county over the last six months, and Davis showed numbers indicating it had been a great success.

The four test sites were Four Seasons mobile park, Bryson Lane, Kenwood Landing mobile park, and Brooks. Davis said the pilot had been completed at the first two sites and was still in progress for the latter two.

Using a “TNR formula,” Davis said stray cat populations were estimated for each site.

Across the county the Humane Society took in over 550 cats in six months, including 70 from Four Seasons, 13 from Bryson Lane, 63 at Kenwood mobile park, and 79 in Brooks. Another 278 were taken in from other county locations over that timeframe.

Out of over 550 cats, only eight were euthanized. Davis said those were cases in which veterinarians deemed the cats to be so old or sick that euthanizing was the best option. In general, she said only around one-percent of cats that come through TNR end up being euthanized.

A total of 51 kittens were taken in and eventually adopted out to families.

“If you can get them young, you can get them domesticated and adopted out,” Davis said.

Rathburn said that Animal Control supports the program and said TNR is a better option in many cases “as long as citizens are agreeable to it.”

Over the same time frame as the pilot program, Animal Control took in fewer cats at 323. That number also includes pets, whereas the TNR figures only include strays. Less then half of those cats (138) were adopted out, whereas 185 were euthanized for a total cost of $35,000.

Davis said the TNR program resulted in 49 adoptions and cost $24,930, all paid for by donations and grants.

“We did more cats for less money and didn’t charge the tax payer a single penny,” Davis said.

Rathburn noted that the program lowered the workload for Animal Control.

“We’ve already seen a decrease in cats coming into the shelter. For instance, the two mobile home parks, Four Seasons and Kenwood Landing, we were going over there a few times a week sometimes during the summer, at least a couple times a month. Now we have not had to go out there for cats, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the public.”

The program needed support from the county in order to apply for further grants. Davis cited four different grants totaling over $20,000 that could be available to the Humane Society if the county showed support for TNR.

All of the commissioners showed support, and County Administrator Steve Rapson said an ordinance supporting TNR could be put together by December. County Chairman Steve Brown praised the efforts of the Fayette Humane Society.

“I had never heard of the TNR program before and I had to go google it. I still had a lot of uncertainty, but you all were so passionate and you’ve done so much great work. We’ve been very fortunate to be able to work with you. The incredible amount of work you do and the low amount of money it takes to do it, it’s phenomenal. You’ve made me a real believer.”