City is first in SC with no-kill plan for stray animals

West Columbia Animal Control Officer Morgan Pileggi with TNR cat (Source: Mardi Valentino)
West Columbia Animal Control Officer Morgan Pileggi with TNR cat (Source: Mardi Valentino)

WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Stray animals in West Columbia can live long, happy lives thanks to a successful city program.

The city's No Kill Animal Control Program has found options for dealing with stray animals rather than euthanasia. City officials say it is the first program of its kind for any city in South Carolina.

"For years West Columbia dealt with the problem of feral  and stray animals in neighborhoods by transporting them to an animal shelter where they usually were euthanized," said City Clerk Mardi Valentino.

"What an achievement," said Jane Brundage with Pets Inc. "This is something that everyone's aspiring to across the country, making their communities no kill."

"West Columbia became the first no kill city in South Carolina by developing a program that focuses on saving unwanted or undomesticated animals through adoption and sustained feral cat colonies at no increased cost to the city," said Valentino.

In 2011, West Columbia's Animal Control officer took 170 animals to the Cayce Animal Shelter. For the first 10 months of 2012, 69 cats were taken to Cayce. In November of 2012, the city started taking cats to Pets Inc., which does not set deadlines for placing animals into homes.

"The determination to see a resolution in this problem was surprising and refreshing and I think we really need to thank the City of West Columbia, the mayor, in particular," Brundage said. "Mayor Owens in particular has been a tremendous cheerleader for this program."

West Columbia Animal Control Officer Morgan Pileggi says before the program started, many good dogs she captured because they were running loose were being put down.

"Now these adoptable dogs are being taken over to Pets Inc. and if they don't get claimed, they're being adopted to good homes," she said. "These good dogs, they're having a second chance, even when they don't get claimed by their previous owners, which I think is just fantastic."

Unadoptable feral cats were put into a trap-neuter-release program, which neuters the cats and releases them back into their colonies where they cannot reproduce. Since November of 2012, 546 cats feral captured in the City of West Columbia have been neutered and released.

"The program embraces the Trap Neuter Release protocol (TNR) for feral cats that are inoculated, spayed or neutered, and ear tipped  then returned to one of three feral cat colonies in the city," said Valentino. "Ear tipping indicates a cat has been through the TNR protocol and is no longer a health or reproductive threat. West Columbia hopes to reduce the feral cat population by 50 to 60% over the next seven years through reproduction control."

Valentino says with the TNR program, a cat colony can be eradicated naturally within 10-12 years.

In July of 2013, Pets, Inc. started accepting dogs. Since then, 98 dogs have been taken to the shelter, where eventually they are found homes.

It cost the city nothing to implement the program, and Valentino says it is saving the city money. Pets, Inc. recoups some of its costs through adoption fees.

"The money spent on animal shelters is now diverted to support services provided by Pets, Inc. adoption center," said Valentino.

Valentino says the new program benefits all God's creatures.

"Providing a humane way to assist these animals with inoculations, spay/neuter services and adoption gives them a new lease on life and the chance to bring their boundless love and joyful companionship to adoptive homes," she said.

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