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KHS decision on feral cat fee is fair

Since Mirah Horowitz came on board as executive director of the Kauai Humane Society, she’s done a fine job.

Her emphasis on using social media to publicize pets available for adoption has been effect. There is a great atmosphere at KHS. Their transfer program sending pets to the mainland, where they stand a far better chance of adoption, is strong. And no one can question this organization’s dedication to animals.

Horowitz has been a positive influence in the care of dogs and cats on Kauai. Consider that KHS has had close to 1,000 adoptions at the shelter since she started in October, and has transferred more than 600 dogs and cats to its rescue partners on the mainland.

And as Horowitz explained previously to TGI, the live release rate, which quantifies how many animals leave the shelter alive, reflects a good story. The live release rate for dogs has gone from 85% in fiscal year 2018 to 89% in fiscal year 2019. It increased its live release rate for cats from 39% in FY18 to 51% in FY19. And it increased its overall live release rate from 59% to 68%.

Not every decision at KHS is an easy one. It’s not all good news with pets going to happy homes. Some decisions are about life and death. We bring that up because a new KHS policy has received some criticism, but we believe Horowitz is correct in that it is necessary.

A fee, $90, was recently adopted and applies to unlicensed feral cats that are brought to the shelter. Some believe such a fee is punishing those who are trying to help feral cats by bringing them to KHS, rather than leaving them to try and survive on their own.

But as Horowitz recently wrote in a guest commentary, “unlicensed feral cats are not safe when they are brought to KHS for the sole purpose of euthanasia. This small subset of cats — unlicensed feral cats — do not belong to anyone, cannot be handled safely in a home or shelter setting, and are unadoptable. The only outcome that KHS can legally provide for them is euthanasia.”

Unlicensed feral cats make up 30% of the cats that come to KHS, which means 70% of the cats that are brought there can be surrendered free of charge.

The cost of holding and then euthanizing a feral cat is about $150. The funding KHS receives from the county does not cover the cost in full. We agree with Horowitz when she says that “in order to continue our humane services for the community on a non-profit basis, we unfortunately have to charge for some of the services we offer.”

Most of us can agree we don’t want feral cats roaming the island. But reducing their population is easier said than done. Most of us can also agree euthanasia hardly seems like the best answer. Simply killing all feral cats can’t be the final solution. While trap-neuter-release seems like a humane way of dealing with feral cats, there are those who argue that TNR can’t and won’t work as there are simply too many feral cats and their population will increase faster than TNR could have an impact.

The feral cat issue is one that Kauai will be dealing with for years, likely decades, to come. Meanwhile, the $90 fee to leave a feral cat with KHS is fair because as Horowitz notes, it won’t be adopted. It will be euthanized. It is a cost KHS can’t bear alone — and it shouldn’t have to. The problem with the fee, however, is that people will stop bringing feral cats to KHS to avoid it and either take care of the cat in their own way, or just leave it alone, thus leading to an increased in the feral cat population.

This is a delicate situation and there is no clear answer. But what is clear, we can’t and shouldn’t leave it to KHS to euthanize every feral cat people bring to it. Let’s find a better way. Until then, this fee is reasonable.
Source: The Garden Island

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