The Village of Lancaster has taken preventive measures to halt an increase in the feral cat and rat population.
The Village Board passed a resolution on Monday accepting trap, neuter and return programs as viable and acceptable population control tools for the cats.
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Board members voted unanimously to allow people to go into areas affected by large populations of feral and free-roaming cats, trap them, spay or neuter them, and set them free. The groups humanely trap the cats and vaccinate them before they are released back into the areas where they were found.
Historically, the practice has been to trap the animals and kill them.
However, under what the village is calling the TNR program, the animals will act as placeholders, occupying territory and living their lives without more cats moving into the area. The existing cats will not have the means to reproduce if trapped, limiting the growth of population.
“In lieu of destroying feral cats, they are going to be gathered, neutered and released back to where they were found,” said Village Attorney Arthur Herdzik, who wrote the resolution. “Studies indicate that destroying them creates a vacuum that other cats fill. There is also a cruelty issue.”
Under the resolution, the trapping of cats is now legal in the village and residents are encouraged to participate.
The board was approached by Feral Cat FOCUS Inc., an all-volunteer, not-for-profit company that deals with cat populations in this manner for the safety of the animals and of the people who live in the affected neighborhoods.
“[FOCUS] approached me. It is a humane way to treat cats. They aren’t taken to a shelter. The Erie County Legislature is endorsing this,” said village Trustee Russell W. Sugg. “Groups like FOCUS will educate the public. There is no cost to the village.”
According to FOCUS, the group has already performed 60 to 70 recent procedures on cats in the Lancaster area.
Buffalo, Williamsville, Springville and West Seneca have recently passed similar legislation.
The village has also seen an increase in activity from rat populations.
According to Shawn Marshall, the village’s code enforcement officer, he has received around 75 calls from residents complaining about rats since he took the job in June.
“The downtown business district area has had problems for years now.” said Marshall.
Rats have become more active and are attracted to dog feces, open garbage cans, leaf and firewood piles, and vacant structures.
At this time, the village does not have lidded garbage totes for trash collection.
According to Marshall, the totes would have to be provided by the Town of Lancaster and the cost to provide the totes to residents would be in the millions of dollars as the current fleet of trucks is not fitted with tote lifts.
Residents can prevent any possible rat infestation by cleaning up leaf piles, lifting firewood piles off the ground, getting lidded garbage cans and regularly cleaning up any waste from pets and disposing of it properly.
If residents have a rat issue, they can contact the Erie County Health Department, which will bait the rats for disposal.
According to Marshall, the county will take care of the problem in about a week.
Marshall is no stranger to rats. Near his home on Como Park Boulevard near Aurora Street, he had a problem at the beginning of November. He returned home one night to see a rat on one of his decorative Halloween pumpkins.
Marshall said all he can do is direct people to the county Health Department.
Residents can contact the Erie County Health Department by calling 858-7690.
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