NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The city will temporarily adopt a set of more humane means for how its officials will handle the local feral cat population, while it continues to review an alternative method which doesn’t involve euthanization.

Animal control officers have been instructed to not pick up stray cats, unless they’re visibly sick or injured, or pose a public health threat, said city administrator Thomas Loughlin at the November 1 city council meeting.

Those who feed stray cats will not be ticketed and pay the subsequent $50 fine, Loughlin added, and in addition, the city would look at partnering with a no-kill shelter.

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Activists and local residents have attended recent city council meetings to push for the trap-neuter/spay-return (TNR) process, which advocates argue is a humane alternative to reducing the feral cat population and subsequent public health risk.

“This is costing the taxpayers of New Brunswick money,” said longtime resident Theresa Cetera, referring to the trap and kill method. “It doesn’t need to cost them money, because these cats are living, they’re being care for, they’re fixed and they’re vaccinated.”

TNR involves involves trapping feral cats, sterilizing them, vaccinating them against rabies and then returning them to the colony from which they were taken. Because the stray cats are not reproducing, advocates argue, their numbers dwindle as cats die of natural causes.

City officials have been pouring over TNR ordinances from municipalities like Kearney, Old Bridge, Point Pleasant and East Brunswick, where they’ve compared and contrasted different approaches to keeping a lid on the stray cat population.

The city wouldn’t have an official recommendation for at least 30 days, hence the short-term measures.

“I will say that not everyone believes that TNR is a good place,” Loughlin told the city council, “There are a lot of people who do, but frankly, I am not schooled in that area. We’re going to try, with the assistance of our animal control people, the input of the public that’s already been made, and our police department, to make a sound recommendation.”

Nancy Scalzone, a longtime New Brunswick resident and TNR supporter and practitioner, wasn’t entirely satisfied with Loughlin’s answer.

“I ask that you seriously consider this, we are ready to sit down to meet with you when you are,” Scalzone said.

One consideration with the TNR approach is that volunteers will have to care for the cat colony as it dies out, feeding the cats and maintaining their health.

Scalzone assured that many groups around New Brunswick would be more than happy to help with the entire process, such as Scarlet PAWS and the North Brunswick Humane Association.