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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Mattfield

Feeding Cats in Bayonne? Part 2.

Updated: Aug 14, 2023


Back in April, we featured Bayonne, NJ as the first city in our "Feeding Cats In..." series here. While some information was available through OPRA and existing ordinances, a final amendment to the town's contract with New Jersey Humane Society for animal control and sheltering was missing. The amendment has finally been signed as of August 10, 2023 and outlines how the annual $25,000 TNR budget is to be spent:

OK, let's start with some math.

By now, you know I love to break things down with some simple arithmetic. Per items 1 and 2(f):


  • $25,000 total for all TNR

  • $150/cat minimum

$25,000 divided by $150/cat = 166 cats


In this post, I did a rough estimate with an even more conservative cost of $100/cat, and came to the conclusion that this program is nowhere near adequate to address the feral cat overpopulation crisis of Bayonne. Even a very conservative estimate based on a sample of several blocks showed that thousands of cats are currently unfixed in Bayonne. A capacity of 166 cats does not even start to address the issue--cats will quickly outbreed the services of NJHS even if everyone traps cats and uses the entire year's funding in 6 months. More importantly, it is also limited to registered colonies, which are a very small percentage of the cats roaming Bayonne.


You'll have to trap and follow the city's rules.

When Whiskers canvassed a particularly cat-populated area of Bayonne this year and spoke to residents, the overwhelming consensus was that residents should not have to trap the cats whether they feed them or not. They were not interested in vouchers despite being given the freedom of dropping off any day that PFA was open. The NJHS program requires you not only to trap, but to do it and have the cats available for pickup on a particular date and time.


During our visits over a month, just one block had over 25 cats with multiple feeders. We attempted to find just one person willing to use our traps and vouchers and came up empty. Every resident expressed concern, but most kept insisting that "the city" should trap and fix the cats. Multiple feeders would not even cooperate when we offered to trap and vet cats for them on the spot but needed permission and food withheld for several hours.


What if my colony isn't registered? I only feed a few in my yard.

Item 2(a) states:

Before trapping and partaking in this program, you have to register your colony (and yourself as a caretaker) with the Bayonne Health Department. We also assume that the "minimum of five cats" is for NJHS' purposes, i.e. they have to collect five cats during the week. Logically, this would mean that if you have two, they can't coordinate a pick-up until they have commitments for 3 more cats to avoid doing this whole transport and holding operation for any fewer than 5 cats. This is reasonable given the amount of transport and work involved.


However, the amendment is written very badly and actually states that five cats are to be from a common registered colony location. We can logically assume this is not what they meant, but it's kind of frightening that no one caught this during drafting. Bottom line: Yes you can use this program. But you'll need to register your colony even if it's just a few cats in your yard and coordinate with the city before you start trapping. They may not be able to take your cats right away until others "fill the van."


Don't want to register? Do TNR yourself at the very reasonable rates offered by clinics like PFA. You can read about them here. Above all, an insufficient city program is no excuse not to fix the cats you feed.


Where do they take the cats? And when?

There is no clear answer to this. In reading 2(a) above, the 5+ cats are picked up on a "designated day" determined by the Health Department. It could be any day.


The location will be at the registered colony. Or somewhere else.


NJHS will pick up your cats. Or someone else if NJHS can't or won't (even though their $25,000 contract includes all services).


It gets muddier: "NJHS will transport the feral cats and will house said cats in its West New York facility from pick-up on the designated day until they are transported to either Twin Oaks in Teaneck, ASPCA in New York or another agreed upon facility for treatment depending on availability the following Friday." Do you feel lucky?

 

In summary, your cats will then be taken to West New York and held in a facility there until the vet appointment. Which could be days. Maybe more than a week. And then loaded in a van to Teaneck. Or New York City. Or some other undisclosed location.

 

What about sick and injured cats? I can't always see if they're sick or hurt until they're trapped.

Every cat's visit we fund through the 50 Feral Fix program ends up costing more than the TNR package at PFA. This amendment does not address anything that might arise beyond the standard TNR package. State law requires that no animal is denied veterinary care, but this amendment does not recognize any of this or address it. Will you be contacted if there is an issue during holding? Will a cat with any illness or injury be turned away? Or impounded at the shelter? These are questions you should ask when you request vouchers to make sure that you are comfortable with the rules.

Now friendly Bayonne cat Millie only needed a $25 shot of convenia to save her life. NJHS never called us back when we found her and needed stray hold. What would happen to her in this program?


Where do I pick the cats up when they're done?

The return is even more ambiguous, assuming all goes well:

"After said quarantine period, NJHSC will transport the feral cats back to the registered colony or a designated location as determined by the City's Divison of Health."


Whether intentional or not, this wording allows animal control to release your cats somewhere besides their colony.


Whether this addendum was written by individuals with no experience or knowledge of TNR, please be aware that ambiguous language like this favors the writer. This amendment leaves the door wide open with regards to locations, holding times, emergencies and additional care, and return times and locations. It might go very well and help less than 200 cats. But it also allows cats to sit in traps indefinitely and to be refused care beyond the $150 budget.

The bottom line is that you are leaving your cat in the custody of a contractor reporting to Bayonne's Board of Health and governed by a vague written operating procedure for city-funded TNR.

As always, if you are able to pay the very reasonable rates at PFA or other clinics for TNR and do the trapping and transport without city intervention, you can be in control of your cats' care and safety. Don't wait for someone else to do it. If you feed them, fix them.






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