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Teen proposes stray cat solution for Fond du Lac

The City Council is considering a trap, neuter, and release program for feral cats
Posted at 6:54 PM, Mar 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-17 19:54:18-04

FOND DU LAC (NBC 26) — The Fond du Lac City Council is considering a proposal to address feral cats in the city—and it's all thanks to one high schooler's passion for helping animals.

At a recent City Council meeting, Madison Hernandez presented a proposal months in the making: encouraging the city to adopt a TNR—or Trap, Neuter, Release—plan for Fond du Lac’s feral cats.

The idea is to capture feral cats, which cannot be domesticated or live comfortably with humans, and prevent them from reproducing.

"You can trap and kill and that reduces it in a snap, like it's gone," Hernandez said. "But nobody wants cats to die. And it doesn't even help the problem, because there's this thing called the vacuum effect whereas when you do take cats out of a colony and you remove them, more cats will just fill back in there."

Hernandez worked with local rescues to develop her proposal, which Mo Dumas, cat foster coordinator at Sandi Paws Rescue, said will reduce the number of feral cats over time.

“The problem is that one cat within seven years has the capability of producing 400 cats,” Dumas said. “So, we want to get those cats to have that where they are spayed or neutered.”

Right now, TNR is not legal in Fond du Lac. But after Madison brought the topic to the City Council, that could change.

“I think the idea of neutering the wild cats makes a lot of sense,” Fond du Lac City Council President Patrick Mullen said at a March 8 meeting.

There is science to back this up: a study at the University of Central Florida found that a TNR program caused the feral cat population to decline by 66 percent in 11 years.

Other cities like Cudahy and La Crossehave adopted similar programs, which Madison used to fashion her proposal.

“I went about emailing and researching other places in Wisconsin that do it,” Hernandez said. “And they told me kind of what they do.”

Feral cats are one of the main issues in the city's ongoing negotiations with the Fond du Lac Humane Society, which shared astatement on their website in support of TNR, but said this might not be an immediate solution to the problem.

“Even with a TNR program for feral cats, it will take several years to decrease overpopulation. The city must include feral cats in any animal control contract,” a Humane
Society board director said at a March 8 City Council meeting.

This started out as a project Hernandez began in November at Fond du Lac STEM Academy. Her teacher Adam Grassnickle helped with the project, saying he drew on his experience working in local government in Madison.

“I think having a hands-on experience like this is the perfect introduction to being involved in something locally like it with the government,” Grassnickle said.

And Hernandez said she believes this project could turn into a real-life solution.

“Now I have a whole group of people talking about it,” Hernandez said. “I have the Humane Society... the three other rescues in Fond du Lac talking about it, and the whole entire City Council talking about it, and we're still gonna keep talking about it.”