Trapping effort halted after cat's death to resume

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Oregon's largest county plans to restart a trap-neuter-return program to reduce the stray cat population a few months after it was shut down following a cat's death.

Michael Oswald, director of Multnomah County Animal Services, said the ACT (Apartment Cat TNR) team will be reactivated in August, after new safety protocols are finalized and a coordinator with management experience is hired.

The ACT team was established last fall to help control the county's stray and feral cat population. Volunteers set traps at mobile home parks and lower-income apartment buildings, and the captured cats were spayed or neutered before returning home.

But Oswald suspended the program in late April after a fatal blunder. The team lost track of two traps placed at a commercial building near a southeast Portland apartment complex. One cat, which had been trapped for weeks, was found dead in its cage. A second cat, which appeared sick, ran when it was released. It's unknown if it survived.

Oswald said the new protocol will hopefully ensure that volunteers always wait with their traps, check them regularly and never leave one out overnight.

"We want to make sure we have the safeguards in place so that we can ensure that all the traps are accounted for and all the animals are safe," he said.

Eric Phelps, who has been trapping feral cats for years, including in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, volunteered with the ACT program at its inception and was later hired by the county. Phelps, who has since quit, was called to the scene after a resident in the apartment complex noticed the trap that contained the deceased cat.

He said Multnomah County's initial trap-neuter-return effort was "haphazard," and it failed because officials desperate for volunteers took on people with no trapping experience and provided little training.

"The volunteers had not made note of how many traps they had or where those traps had been placed," he said. "And they did that because they were not trained properly."

Phelps said the volunteers should check traps every 20 to 30 minutes and never leave the scene.

"You don't ever put traps down and then drive away," he said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press

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