A brouhaha raging in North Ridgeville over an animal warden shooting and killing a litter of feral kittens last week would not happen in Akron for a simple reason: The city’s two animal control officers don’t carry firearms or tranquilizer guns.
While the officers do respond to animal complaints, no one of authority in the city or in Summit County is going to catch and remove kittens from a residence or other feral cat conclave.
“We don’t offer traps for feral cats because there is not enough room at the county shelter. If a citizen traps a cat, they can take it down to the shelter,” said John Valle, director of Neighborhood Assistance for the city. “Primarily, the reason why we don’t is to have sufficient space for residents to bring in these animals. But we do not trap, shoot, tranquilize or do anything with feral cats.”
Earlier this week, more than 100 protesters attended a North Ridgeville City Council meeting demanding the firing of retired police officer Barry Accorti, who was rehired as a humane officer.
On June 10, Accorti responded to a home where a resident complained that a litter of feral cats carried fleas, caused an odor of urine and brought dead animals into her yard. The officer solved the problem by shooting the five kittens living in a wood pile on the property. The mother cat ran away.
Police said the resident understood the cats would be euthanized, but she said she didn’t expect it to happen in her yard.
In Akron, a humane officer will respond to a resident’s called-in complaint, but the person then would be advised as to what the city can or cannot do, Valle said.
“We would advise them on what their options are in terms of trapping the animals and taking them to the shelter themselves because we do not issue traps for cats,” he said.
The only exception would be if a person is bitten by a wild animal. Then, Valle said, an officer would trap the animal and send it out for rabies testing.
Residents who complain to the police department would be told that officers don’t respond to this type of call, Akron Police Department spokesman Lt. Rick Edwards said.
“If they are feral cats, we refer them to animal control,” he said.
The Humane Society of the United States estimates there are as many as 50 million free-roaming — or “community cats” — across the United States. These cats include ferals, friendly stray and abandoned cats, as well as owned cats let outside to roam and reproduce.
Unaltered female cats can have two or three litters each year. During “kitten season” each spring and summer, Summit County Animal Control receives hundreds of feral, stray or otherwise unwanted kittens each month.
By some estimates, there might be 90,000 feral cats living in Summit County.
For homeowners who wish to be rid of a feral cat, Summit County Animal Control will lend humane traps for capturing and delivering the animal to the agency. There is a $50 deposit fee that is refunded upon return of the trap, said Craig Stanley, director of administrative services for County Executive Russ Pry.
Cats that have become feral, which usually occurs at about 5 weeks of age, are considered unadoptable and are euthanized free of charge.
“But if they are nice cats, we always try to find them homes,” Stanley said.
Several local animal rescue agencies have low-cost programs for spaying or neutering feral cats and kittens, but the animals must then be returned to where they were trapped and managed as a colony with food and shelter provided.
TNR — a national feral cat advocacy program for controlling feral cat colonies by trapping, neutering and returning them to the place of origin — is humane and a good way of dealing with the problem, Valle said.
“That’s another reason we don’t trap cats and take them to a different location. It would be counterproductive. I highly recommend that TNR be a part of anybody’s arsenal with regard to feral cats,” Valle said, “because it is the only effective method for controlling these feral populations.”
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.