Now that he's done rounding up escaped prisoners, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's next task should be to help round up feral cats.
Cats? Really? It sounds like a trivial issue, until you realize that millions of feral cats are responsible for spreading diseases, creating a public nuisance and significantly affecting the populations of birds and other wildlife.
On the governor's desk is a bill sponsored by state Sen. Kathleen Marchione of Halfmoon and Assemblyman John McDonald of Cohoes (A2778/S1081) that would help address the problem by providing grants for nonprofits to round up feral cats, have them vaccinated and spayed, then re-released into colonies that can be monitored by the groups.
The bill was cosponsored in the Assembly locally by Jim Tedisco, Phil Steck and Angelo Santabarbara, and in the Senate by Sen. George Amedore. Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner voted for it.
The idea behind so-called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is that it helps humanely control the growth of the feral cat populations, which in turn controls starvation, fighting, the impact on wildlife, and the spread of disease. At least 15 states and New York City have similar programs.
Supporters say it's a far more effective and less expensive way to control the populations than trapping and euthanizing feral cats.
Trapping-euthanization costs about $100 to $125 per cat, while TNR costs about half that. In addition, studies have shown that when feral cats are removed permanently, other cats move in and the remaining cats breed to fill the void, perpetuating the problem. Other studies show that by neutering and re-releasing cats, on the other hand, their populations in colonies actually decrease over time.
But not everyone agrees TNR is effective. Opponents of the bill, including such odd bedfellows as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and some animal hobbyists and sportsmen groups, say removing cats from the wild permanently is the only effective way to control their population and impact.
Funding for the effort will come from the Animal Population Control Program, a public-private fund supported in part, ironically, by fees raised from dog licenses. So taxpayers won't be hit with the additional cost, another plus.
The feral cat bill has humanity, scientific evidence and cost on its side.
The governor should sign it into law.