Columbus a finalist for $1 million grant to help deal with feral cat population

Columbus is one of three finalists from among more than 50 U.S. cities that applied for a $1 million grant to help control rampant colonies of feral cats in the city, Director of Public Works Pat Biegler said Tuesday.

Biegler, speaking to Columbus Council during a first reading of an accompanying ordinance, said the Best Friends Animal Society grant would be paid out over three years and would make an enormous difference in how the city addresses feral cat colonies.

The ordinance, whether Columbus gets the grant or not, would establish a “Community Cat Program,” under which feral cats would be captured, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, marked and returned to their colony, Biegler said.

“The big hurdle is that we don’t have funding for spay and neutering and for traps,” Biegler said. “This program would take care of all of that.”

The ordinance would also authorize colony caretakers to feed the colonies and possibly assist in the capturing of the cats. Currently, people are feeding many colonies around the city, but are doing so illegally, because city code restricts people to five pets.

“We actually have people out there now who keep colonies,” Biegler said. “Currently, to be honest, it’s not legal. People don’t want to be identified as a colony caretaker, but they exist all over the city, God bless them”

Becky Carter, who operates the Animals SOS Foundation, said the ordinance and especially the grant would allow a “major shift” in the way the community could care for its undomesticated cats.

“We have made such progress in the last year-and-a-half, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Baker said. “We need the government’s cooperation.”