MILTON — For many months, the city has attempted to implement a feral cat program by seeking an organization to work with to trap, spay or neuter and release cats, but has had a difficult time finding an organization to partner with — until now.
A HOPE for Santa Rosa County FL, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that was recently established in Milton. According to the organization’s website, HOPE stands for health, outreach, prevention and education.
The organization works with the mission statement: “To educate our community on responsible pet ownership of companion animals and proper care for community cats through providing low cost spay/neuter/vaccine services, rescue support and community outreach programs, leading to the prevention of unnecessary euthanasia in Santa Rosa County.”
Brandi Winkleman, the community relations director for the organization, attended a recent Milton Committee of the Whole meeting and expressed her interest in partnering with the city to provide the trap, spay/neuter and release service.
“We are working on a lot of things; our main goal is to get a low-cost spay and neuter clinic here in Santa Rosa County, since it’s very much needed,” Winkleman said. “But right now, what we’re looking for is to get an amendment to allow for trap, neuter and [release] here in the city, and hopefully affect the county with that.”
According to City Manager Brian Watkins, the city has drafted an ordinance that is the same as the county’s animal control ordinance with certain exceptions, because the county currently does not allow animals to be released into the wild.
“It defines community cat… allows, if it is truly a community cat, that it can be released back where it was trapped and it sets the rules for what the trap, neuter and release will do,” Watkins said.
Cats that go through this program will need to be marked in some way — clipped ears, a tattoo — according to Watkins.
Councilman Jeff Snow made a motion to allow the city to revise this ordinance, which will make the program legal within the city, therefore, allowing the program to commence.
“One of the issues we had in the past is, we can put together a feral cat program… but it comes down to who’s going to do it? Who is going to actually do the work, test the animals, take them off, get them taken care of,” Watkins said. “We met Miss Winkleman and the HOPE for Santa Rosa people who are willing to do that for us. It really gives us an opportunity to move forward.”
There is a cost associated with this program. Watkins said at an average of approximately 20 cats a year, the cost should be around $2,000, which will be transferred within the budget.
The next step for the city will be to amend the ordinance allowing the program, acquire the necessary funding and begin the partnership with A HOPE for Santa Rosa.
According to Watkins, the city will assess the effectiveness of the program after a year, and will possibly bring the program to county officials for consideration of implementing it county-wide.
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