(Newark, NJ) – District 3 Freeholder Tyshammie L. Cooper, Chair of the Essex County Freeholder TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) Committee held a meeting to address the issue of feral cats overpopulating communities throughout Essex County. The meeting was held via Zoom telecast and attended by District 1 Freeholder Robert Mercado, Essex County Administrator Robert Jackson, and members of the public. 

Items discussed during the meeting were the specific practices of trapping cats, the process of neutering cats, and the resources that would be allocated going forward. Also touched on were new approaches that may be used for these procedures, including the training of prospective trappers on the best way to trap cats, and providing more funds to purchase traps and hold training sessions. “In the past, the TNR Committee focused primarily on neutering cats, and trapping cats.” Freeholder Cooper stated, “It was brought to our attention that some of the people trapping cats are not as skilled as they should be. It may be beneficial to focus on training the trappers, and also consider bringing on a ‘professional trapper’, as opposed to simply paying people who are not as efficient and may harm the cats they are trapping.”  

Members of the public who participated in the meeting spoke with passion and shared some of the challenges they have experienced in raising awareness about the feral cats that fend for themselves without the benefit of human care. Unfortunately for the feral cats, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the county’s sense of urgency to ensure our residents receive the proper relief and care – which has lessened the urgency to address issues being experienced by feral cats and their advocates. Freeholder Cooper felt it was necessary to express that although the county will continue to prioritize the welfare of our residents during the pandemic, the concerns of the feral cat advocates will be addressed. 

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“It was important to hold this meeting and address the issues articulated by the advocates for feral cats in our community.” Freeholder Cooper stated, “We wanted to communicate that we did not forget about this important issue, we recognize their concerns and are working to develop a plan that we can implement in this climate”. Unfortunately, the overarching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has demanded that our focus be centered on the pressing health concerns of our citizens and the economy. We were pleased with the feedback we received, and we now have new suggestions to implement in an effort to slow down the problem of feral cat over-crowding.

Freeholder President Brendan Gill added, “The issue of feral cat over-crowding is not exclusive to Essex County.  Over the past year, we have heard from passionate advocates about this issue. I am happy that Freeholder Cooper and the TNR Committee were able to meet and take feedback from the public on how we can be more efficient in addressing these concerns.” 

The meeting concluded with the discussion of next steps and action items for the TNR Committee and County Administration. During the October 21, 2020 Freeholder Conference/Board Meeting, the Board passed resolutions supporting NJ State Senate Bill No. 4034, the "Compassion for Community Cats Law", and adopted a resolution commemorating October 16, 2020 as “Global Cat Day” in Essex County. A subsequent meeting of the Essex County Freeholder TNR Committee will be scheduled within the next 45 days.