TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County is dumping 3-pound kittens, roughly 3 months of age, on the streets as part of its Community Cat program.

“They’re too young to take care of themselves, they don’t understand where to get food,” Lauren Tillotson of rescue organization CJPaws said.

Luigi weighed just over 3 lbs when the Pet Resource Center slated him for TNVR

Feral cats are wild, and terrified of humans. In an effort to control their population, the county is paying the Humane Society of Tampa Bay to trap, neuter, vaccinate and release – or TNVR – feral cats.

“Affectionate cats shouldn’t be out on the street like that,” Lauren Tillotson explained.

According to the Pet Resource Center’s latest standard operating procedures for the Community Cat program, if a kitten that weighs close to 3 pounds is found outside – and has no known owner – it now qualifies to be released after it is neutered and vaccinated.

The latest SOP also doesn’t mention, as it previously did, that cats will be released in areas where caretakers can feed, provide water and medical care for them.

In 2016, we reported that 45% of PRC Director Scott Trebatoski’s annual evaluation is tied to increasing live release rates at the county shelter by 5% each year.

One week ago, we requested an interview with Trebatoski – or anyone from the PRC – to discuss the changes in the program. County spokesperson Todd Pratt responded in an email, “Checking.”

No interview or statement was provided.

Trebatoski would not speak with me, but he was busy writing county commissioners a lengthy email filled with statistics about PRC intakes, adoptions, etc.

“We are aware that there is a story about “Kittens pushed onto streets to fend for themselves in Hillsborough County.” While that draws quick attention, it doesn’t tell the whole story,” Trebatoski wrote. He continued, “We returned 932 cats and kittens to their original location (820 adult cats and 112 kittens ranging from 3-6 months of age.)”

“We believe community cat management is an essential component to all public shelters. We take the responsibility seriously and we run a very conservative program when compared to national best practices,” the email added. “Do mistakes happen or do our employees sometimes fail to follow protocol – absolutely – but they are few and far between providing. We work with staff to limit these errors and to teach or retrain them when mistakes are found.”

Trebatoski’s email did not deny changes were made to the Community Cat Program, nor that PRC decided 3-lb. kittens are now eligible to fend for themselves after being neutered and vaccinated.

PRC slated a 3-month-old kitten now named Luigi, his brother and mother for the feral cat program.

Lauren Tillotson of CJPaws rescued them.

Luigi was just over 3 pounds, his brother weighed just under 3. Luigi was sick with upper respiratory and contagious eye infections, but PRC scheduled to send him out on the streets anyway.

The program’s standard operating procedure requires cats being released must be in good health.

“No one would take a 5-year-old child and drive them out to the Bronx and dump them off on a corner and say, ‘hope you do okay!'” Lauren Tillotson said.

But in Hillsborough County, 3 pounds is all it takes to get a kitten out the door.

If you know of something that you think should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-2338-0808 or contact Steve Andrews via email at sandrews@wfla.com

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