MANATEE -- Officials Monday told Trailer Estates residents they need to work together as a community to solve problems caused by feral cats.
"Cats are not here because your neighbor puts out dishes of food," Audrey Garrison, president of the Gulf Shore Animal League, told the Trailer Estates Park Board and an audience of about 40 at a meeting at Trailer Estates, 1903 69th Ave. W.
They're there because of garbage bins and orange
trees and because some residents feed and care for the cats, she said.
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"You have no prayer" of resolving it solely with attempts to trap and kill the animals, she said, because residents who want to protect them will sabotage such efforts.
"The problem doesn't get solved until people get together to solve it," she said.
Garrison and county animal services officers urged the Trailer Estates Park Board to adopt a comprehensive "trap-neuter-and-return" policy to humanely and effectively deal with the situation.
Some residents have complained a colony of feral cats at the 1,277-home retirement community on Sarasota Bay have become a nuisance. Board member Pete Price asked if it were possible to help people as well as the cats.
Garrison offered a number of suggestions, such as gradually moving feeding sites farther away or using coyote-scented granules to keep them off porch furniture.
In November, one resident submitted a petition asking the county commission to stop returning feral cats to the park.
Under the county's no-kill policy, wild cats picked up are sterilized, vaccinated, micro-chipped and ear-tipped, and then returned to where they were found.
The trap-neuter-release program is key to a no-kill community, in which animals are no longer routinely euthanized due to space constraints in the county animal shelters, said Kris Weiskopf, chief of county animal services.
Before Manatee County adopted its no-kill policy in 2011, about 97 percent of caught cats were killed; today, 98 percent remain alive, said Weiskopf.
After the meeting, resident Clark Rotroff said: "It was really informative." He said he had been feeding about 10 feral cats but five had been killed.
The board scheduled another meeting for Jan. 20 to continue its discussion.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.