Lets Clear Up Some of the Confusion about Omaha's Feral Cat Ordinance.

Feral cats are either abandoned cats or the offspring of cats who were once owned and then abandoned. It is illegal to abandon a cat if the Nebraska Humane Society finds anyone doing this; we will work diligently to ensure that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Abandoning animals is just simply wrong. Feral cats are the saddest example of irresponsible, unfeeling pet owners. Most feral cats have, sadly, reverted to a wild state. They live in colonies. According to those who have been actively working to trap feral cats, most of the colonies in Omaha are between 5 and 15 in size today. But feral cats can multiply at an alarming rate.

Eighteen months ago the Nebraska Humane Society began meeting with Feline Friendz, a community group dedicated to sterilizing feral cats. Our goal was to try to find an alternative that would be in the best interest of the cats and also our community. We began a trial system of sterilizing as many feral cats as possible. Feline Friendz trapped them, we sterilized them, gave them basic medical treatment and tipped one of their ears to be sure we could identify them later as sterilized feral cats. In that 18 month period, the NHS sterilized more than 800 feral cats at no cost.

Feline Friendz worked hard, placing many of the sterilized cats at farm homes, and tracking the remaining colonies. Over the 18 month period of our study, the colonies began to stabilize and in some cases, decrease. More importantly, during the years prior to the beginning of our test, stray cats coming to the shelter were increasing by 1,000 a year. Since the beginning of the trial the number of stray cats has DECREASED by more than 450 stray cats.

The ordinance that has just been passed by the Omaha City Council will allow those who want to help feral cats do so legally. The NHS is hoping to sterilize 1,500 feral cats in the next 12 months. These surgeries will be offered under the auspices of Feline Friendz to caretakers with permits those who choose to operate within the law. These surgeries will be done at no cost to the caretaker.

What does the ordinance require?
1. That caretakers obtain a permit.
2. That in the process the property is inspected to ensure they aren’t a hoarder and that they can continue to provide the care necessary.
3. That the colony is provided food, water and shelter.
4. That the caretaker will work toward trapping the cats and having them sterilized.
5. That the cats are tracked to the caretaker’s best ability.
6. That the number of cats in the colony remain a reasonable size, with the ultimate goal to reduce the colony.
7. That the caretaker pays a fee of $25.00 for a two year permit.  That breaks down to just $12.50 a year and entitles the colony caretaker to sterilization and rabies shots for all the cats in their colony, as NHS has the ability to do the surgeries.

What does the ordinance NOT DO?
1. Stop people or businesses from feeding cats off their back porch. NHS does not search for people doing this. If someone calls and complains about a colony, we will go out to investigate. Prior to the passage of this ordinance, we could offer no legal alternative now we can.
2. This ordinance does not require that the cats be sterilized prior to obtaining the permit.

If you are currently feeding feral cats and would like to continue and even get some help, please call the Nebraska Humane Society at 444-7800 ext 451. You will be asked to leave a message with your name and number and we will get back to you just as soon as possible. The NHS is excited about working together with those who love these cats and want to help them.

We applaud Chuck Sigerson and the entire Omaha City Council for supporting this effort.

Judy Varner
President and CEO Nebraska Humane Society