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Op ‘Dog Gone’ complete; ‘Cat Nip’ up next

With the start of summer, Harrison County Government has already begun the 2017 budget process with riverboat gaming funds requests from various nonprofits and organizations in the county during a joint meeting of the board of commissioners and county council on June 13.
With the completion of the successful Operation Dog Gone program, Harrison County Animal Control Officer Bruce LaHue requested funding for Operation Cat Nip, a initiative to combat the issue of unwanted, unaltered and unrestrained felines, which has been a problem long before organized animal control in Harrison County, he said.
The main resource requested ‘ and used for Operation Dog Gone ‘ is more manpower.
The request totaled $72,759, which also included funding for the spay-and-neuter program.
‘The vast majority of felines in Harrison County are feral and live in colonies consisting of 15 to 30 cats,’ LaHue said in his report. ‘The cats can be somewhat invisible since they are nocturnal and roam mostly at night.’
He said the vast majority of captured felines, because of their feral nature, will be euthanized.
LaHue said the problem isn’t as noticeable in rural areas but encouraged government officials to drive through the town of Cory-
don at night.
‘You’ll see them,’ he said.
LaHue said animal control receives more than 200 requests for service a year from property owners complaining about damage to landscaping, structures and smelly waste left on property.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study which indicated there are believed to be between 60 million and 100 million unrestrained felines in the United States, said LaHue, who estimated 60,000 in Harrison County.
‘The CDC concluded that the felines pose a potential health risk to the public which includes rabies and several other zoonotic diseases,’ he said. ‘It has also been demonstrated that the increasing feral cat population is damaging to the ecosystem.’
Operation Cap Nip will provide equipment, personnel and supplies to restrain and remove felines that are on public and private property other than that of the feline’s owner.
‘We have bare minimum resources now,’ LaHue said.
LaHue said the project will help fund training for residents to learn to trap feral cats, humanely.
The traps must have food and water and can’t be in use when it’s at a certain high or low temperature.
LaHue said he expects the operation to remove 12,000 cats in the first year and then they’ll re-evaluate if the program needs to be continued.
Also related to animal control, adoption rates are on the rise at the Harrison County Animal Control Facility, LaHue said, with 81 animals adopted to date this year, up from 34 for the same time frame last year.
‘We’re getting better animals,’ he explained. ‘They’re not feral or aggressive, sick or old.’
LaHue said that can be attributed to education through the schools and organizations such as Lions clubs.
‘People have the misconception that we kill every animal that comes in the shelter,’ he said.
As long as the animal is healthy and isn’t aggressive, it will be put on the adoption floor and stay there, he said. Less than 2 percent of the animals that come in fall in the sick or aggressive category.
LaHue said he wanted to ‘go against the grain’ and reduce funding for spay and neutering from $30,000 to $25,000.
‘I’m seeing who’s coming in to get these vouchers,’ he said. ‘They drive $75,000 vehicles … I don’t think the taxpayer should pay for vouchers for them.’
For more information about animal control, to donate or volunteer, call 812-738-8163.