AKRON, Ohio (AP) - The city has trapped and killed more than 1,000 cats in the year since passing a law to euthanize any cat caught off its owner's property.
The Summit County Animal Shelter staff said 1,685 cats were caught and 1,279 killed - because they were sick, too wild to be domesticated or not claimed or adopted within a five-day window.
The rest were adopted.
John Hoffman, the city's director of customer service, said he gets hate mail from "a small, vocal minority," but believes most residents favor the effort to control the cat population.
He calls the program a success.
"We have 50 traps available to catch the cats," said Hoffman, who noted that all were in constant use. "We are getting so many that we have slowed down the capture process ourselves because there is nowhere to house them."
Citizens for Humane Animal Practices has filed a lawsuit set for trial in September, seeking to end the program.
"Scientific studies have shown that trapping feral cats does nothing to solve the problem," said Citizens co-chairwoman Deanne Christman-Resch. "Other cats will simply move in to fill the vacuum left by the missing cat."
Two cats and their offspring can produce 50 cats in 18 months and 300,000 in seven years, humane society sources said. One alternative she suggested is a trap-neuter-release program.
Under the program, feral cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, and then returned to their colony.
The colonies grow smaller as older cats die and kittens are prevented, proponents say.
Donna Wilcox, executive director of Alley Cat Allies, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that serves as a clearinghouse of information about the stray and feral cat population, said places such as San Diego, Orange County, Fla., and Maricopa County, Ariz., have enacted trap-neuter-release policies and seen their population drop.
But Hoffman said trap-neuter-release does not deal with the citizen complaints.
"If we remove the cat, we remove the problem," he said.
Glen James, executive director of the Summit County Animal Shelter, said trapped cats are observed long enough for shelter workers to determine if they are feral.
A cat is killed if it is deemed feral, looks sick or has a lot of fleas. If the cat is friendly and healthy, it will be held three days to give the owner a chance to claim it. The cat is then put up for adoption for two days. If it is not adopted, it's euthanized.
Dan Knapp, executive director of the Capital Area Humane Society in Columbus, said Akron's methods will fail.
"I was surprised to hear what Akron was doing," he said. "They are welcome to see our program. We spay and release strays but also put many of them up for adoption.
"Frankly, if I would be a taxpayer in Akron, I would be concerned. Trapping and euthanizing is cruel and wasteful. They are using tax money to worsen a problem they are trying to solve."