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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Mattfield

Feeding cats in South River?

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

South River responded to our OPRA request in a timely fashion, but we had to do a bit more research since we found this flyer online. What we discovered was a kind, hardworking volunteer and what we think is a bit of a misrepresentation by the town regarding a TNR program.


1. South River's TNR Program is a small group of volunteers with no municipal funding.

I reached out to South River's Board of Health Secretary to inquire about the above advertisement, who responded by e-mail that the program was run by someone who did not have e-mail access. She indicated that the person would contact us by phone, and we did hear from South River's TNR group leader within a few days as promised.

The TNR Program advertised by South River is actually a very small group of four volunteers who in their spare time trap, transport, and get cats fixed at a local vet or People for Animals. They do not receive any funding from the town, and are also not a nonprofit. The funds mainly come from a single painting fundraiser in the ball park of $1,000 or so. Per the flyer above, South River also collects checks from anyone who feels compelled to support these volunteers, and passes any money received to the group. I reviewed ledgers from the town for funds earmarked for TNR and this is essentially an unfunded program of hardworking volunteers who do their best on a case-by-case basis to the tune of around 10 cats/year.

Obviously we salute these determined volunteers who are working with no steady funding and getting any cats fixed, but this is by no means a comprehensive TNR Program fiscally or administratively supported by the town. There are no ordinances establishing requirements and no standard operating procedures.

South River publicizes a TNR Program but puts the burden on a few individuals who work together informally to do what they can to help people on a first come first serve basis, subject to funds and manpower. These volunteers certainly cannot and should not be expected to fix and vet the huge number of outdoor cats that are living unfixed and breeding outside in South River.

2. South River recognizes and allows feral cat colonies--but only if they are fixed and registered.

Like many towns, South River requires caregivers to report to the Board of Health annually with details on the cats as well as register the colony. A list of caregiver requirements is summarized below and located here:

  • Register the feral cat colony

  • Spay/neuter/ear tip all cats in the colony (>90%)

  • Provide descriptions/photos of each cat to the Board of Health along with proof of spay/neuter

  • Provide food, water, shelter to cats

  • Observe the colony and keep records of illness or unusual behavior

  • Obtain written approval of any property to which the caregiver accesses to provide colony care

  • Remove all kittens and place in foster homes or with animal shelters

  • Report annually to the Board of Health on the status of the colony, number of cats and disposition

  • Obtain medical attention for any cat needing it

3. Only managed feral colonies registered with the Board of Health are exempt from licensing.

South River requires licensing of all cats per Article VIII Section 108-54 of the municipal code. A registered, managed feral colony as defined in item 2 is exempt from licensing. Licensing fees do not go to the TNR Program.

4. South River does not allow feeding of unfixed colonies.

Per this section of code:

"It shall be unlawful to feed feral cats unless they are spayed/neutered and vaccinated in accordance with this article. Animal Control Officers shall be empowered to give warning notices to individuals feeding feral cats outside the guidelines of this article requiring them to contact the Board of Health or Feral Cat Committee, within 30 days, to obtain help getting the cats neutered and vaccinated and otherwise brought into compliance with this article. Failure to make such contact within 30 days and cooperate with the Committee may result in fines of up to $100 per cat."

5. South River does not allow roaming unfixed cats.

Per Article VII Section 108-42, owners of domestic cats may not allow unfixed cats to roam unsupervised outside, must guard against cats creating a nuisance, provide food, water, and shelter, and may under no circumstances abandon any domestic cat.

6. South River's designated shelter is in Skillman.

In response to my OPRA request for records of the animal control and shelter contract, the town responded in writing that their shelter is located at 1010 Route 601, Skillman NJ. This is the address of SAVE - A Friend to Homeless Animals, a registered 501(c)3. According to the website, "SAVE is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) animal shelter and does not receive funding at the local, state, or federal levels."

It is unclear how the shelter can intake animals from South River if no funding is provided by the municipality. The state does require that every town has an impound facility. Seems as though South River leans heavily on volunteers and nonprofits to fulfill state mandates related to animals.

In a town with unrealistic registration requirements, no shelter contract, and no funding of TNR, the best course of action is to control the numbers as quickly as possible. Until you do, your colony is at risk of enforcement action and licensing violations, not to mention a population that will quickly reach unmanageable proportions with no high volume program in sight.

Our suggestion is always to control TNR yourself--if you can afford the very low rates at People for Animals, by all means, get trapping and use walk-in surgery days! It's much cheaper and easier to fix one or two cats than 25. We can help you with equipment lending and the procedures are all on this site. For low-income residents, we have the 50 Feral Fix Program and vouchers available.


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