LIHU‘E — Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Kaua‘i Humane Society has halted its intake of feral cats.
This is in compliance with the National Animal Care and Control Association’s guidelines to not accept non-emergency intakes during this crisis, said KHS Executive Director Mirah Horowitz.
Usually, KHS takes feral-cat surrenders and charges $90 to take unlicensed feral cats that are brought to the shelter for the sole purpose of euthanasia. In a policy explanation Horowitz published in TGI in October 2019, she says about 30% of the cats that come into the shelter fall within that description.
KHS will continue to accept cats that are ill, injured or under eight weeks. But, for “those healthy, unlicensed feral cats that had no possible outcome other than euthanasia,” Horowitz said, this service will no longer be available.
“Whether we are able to accept feral cats for the remainder of our FY20 contract with the County of Kaua‘i will depend on when ‘normal’ operations (including feral euthanasia) can resume safely at KHS,” Horowitz said.
But the intake was set to end in the near future.
The humane society is changing it’s policy on the matter for FY21, Horowitz explained.
“We will not admit animals for the sole purpose of euthanasia, unless such euthanasia is medically required in the case of a seriously sick or injured dog or cat,” she said.
Euthanasia as a means of solution to feral-cat populations is not effective, Horowitz said. “Despite years of attempting to euthanize away the feral cats on Kaua‘i, our feral-cat population remains as problematic to people and native birds as ever.”
A possible solution, she said, may be combining trap-neuter-release programs with cat sanctuaries for cats that pose a threat to endangered-bird populations.
KHS is contracted as County of Kauai’s animal-control provider, and county code prohibits KHS from engaging in the TNR process, as Horowitz explained in her October 2019 TGI editorial.
Horowitz said the KHS has never been contracted “specifically” for feral-cat control, but has been asked to take in these animals. Because these cats are typically unsuitable for adoption and because of the county code, KHS would have to euthanize them.
County officials are now trying to decide how to continue feral-cat control without relying on KHS for euthanasia.
In a communication from the county Finance Department to the County Council, Finance Director Reiko Matsuyama wrote, “If the Kaua‘i Humane Society continues to adamantly oppose the feral-cat service, it is imperative that we handle this issue through another third-party vendor. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could penalize us even further if we do not comply.”
As the County Council has been reviewing the 2021 budget, a line item for special projects indicates an increase of $241,000 from $136,001 to $164,001 in the Department of Finance’s budget. While the department noted that there will be a revision of the budget released on May 8, an allocation of $50,000 for “feral-cat control” is “imperative.”
Dr. Andre Raine, coordinator of the Kaua‘i Seabird Recovery Project, said the decision for KHS to end its intake program “does nothing to solve the very real problem of ballooning feral-cat populations on Kaua‘i. It simply pushes it on to someone else to deal with.”
Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that can be found in cat feces that causes the disease toxoplasmosis, which is a leading cause of mortality among Hawaiian monk seals. As feral-cat populations increase, Raine said, so will cat-borne disease, which will lead to animal and human health impacts.
Cats also kill endangered birds on the island.
“Our native and endangered wildlife will continue to suffer the unsustainably high levels of cat predation that we record annually on Kaua‘i,” Raine said.
“It is vital that the county now find and adequately fund an alternative solution to KHS,” Raine continued. “Otherwise, the general public will have nowhere to take feral cats found on their private property.”
Horowitz said KHS “wants to work with the community to solve our feral-cat problem, but, to do so, we believe we must use science and data to craft an effective solution.”
“I don’t think just one of any of these strategies alone will solve our problem,” Horowitz said.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.