The Amarillo Bi-City-County Public Health District Board unanimously voted 5-0 to oppose the Trap-Neuter-Release program proposed by Texas Panhandle Pet Savers Tuesday night.
TPPS made a presentation on the program in hopes of getting the board to pass the proposal along to Amarillo City commissioners. But the 5-0 vote also came with a recommendation to commissioners and the Animal Control Board to oppose the TNR program.
Diseases were one of the red flags for officials, especially after the recent confirmation of rabies cases in Potter and Randall counties. Toxoplasmosis is another disease raising concern.
"Biological matter that causes the disease can last in the environment for up to two years, so the lasting effects of a feral cat colony, especially with infected cats, the effects of that last longer than just the exposure to the cat at that time," Dr. Matt Richardson said.
Amarillo Animal Control Executive Director Mike McGee said diseases are also a concern of the general public.
"Many people in our community don't want to have to deal with the nuisance animal issues with the cats being in and out of the flowerbed and things like that," he said. "And then there's some risk of public health issues with some of the different zoonotic diseases that the cats can carry and shed."
Officials also brought some environmental issues to light.
"One aspect that is unchallenged and unmentioned a lot of the time is the toll these cats take on our bird population," Environmental Health Director Deree Duke said. "Also, horned toads are susceptible. Even though they're (feral cats) well-fed, they still exhibit the cat behavior to hunt and kill prey that's easy."
TTPS, Animal Control and health officials all agreed the feral cat population must be controlled. The issue was how to do it. TPPS said euthanasia may not be the answer and fewer cats on the streets would mean fewer diseases. Officials leaned on the help the community should give.
"I'm a cat-lover, I have cats," Potter and Randall County Health Authority Dr. Roger Smalligan stated. "But I think that we all- the public- needs to neuter their cats. They need to take care of them, they need to vaccinate them for rabies. And I think one of the big things we could do in our community is help contribute money so people can have their cats neutered and then take care of them."
Though the proposal was turned down, TPPS President Robin Cupell said her organization will continue to fight for the TNR program.
"People are trapping animals and taking them into the city already-it's already happening," she said. "So, they're already handling these animals. We want to do it in a much safer way."