Quick release after surgery results in gruesome feral cat deaths

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Hillsborough County has joined up with the Humane Society of Tampa Bay neutering tens of thousands of wild or feral cats, then putting them back on the street the next day.

It is part of the Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Release (TNVR) program to help control and reduce the feral cat population, which is estimated at 200,000 in Hillsborough County. Since 2007, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay says it has neutered or spayed 47,000 feral cats.

But, how are they adjusting after surgery? No one knows for sure.

“It’s helping to reduce the killing at our local shelter and that’s what’s important to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay,” said H.S.T.B. executive director Sherry Silk. Silk admits the Humane Society isn’t keeping track of what happens to the feral cats. After a 2-year pilot program, the Hillsborough County Pet Resources Center doesn’t have any data either.

8 On Your Side has seen pictures of what’s happened to some. The pictures are so disturbing, News Channel 8 managers won’t allow them on television.

Every Monday, feral cats trapped by the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and the Pet Resources Center, are spayed or neutered and vaccinated. Usually, cats undergoing this sort of procedure spend 7 to 10 days in a cone, to prevent them from getting at their incision.

“We don’t have a place to put them for a couple of days,” explained Sherry Silk. So, they are kept overnight. The next day, they are released back on the street in the neighborhood where they were trapped. While neither the county nor the Humane Society has any information or data about what happens to the cats once they’ve been released, evidence indicates it can be horrific.

One disturbing photograph shows a bloody trap cage that once held a cat. The cat’s incision opened and it bled out.

“That’s the worse case scenario is that the wound gets pulled back open. At that point you again, without proper care, I’ve got to believe that an animal that’s dripping blood all over the street isn’t going to last very long,” stated executive director of the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation, Don Thompson.

Other photos showed the animal bled to death, as well as other incisions on other cats that became infected and were then infested with maggots.

“So we have no follow up care, no pain meds, we have nothing. We say that these cats do okay with that, but again I’ve not seen any data to support that one way or the other,” added Thompson.

Sherry Silk admits complications can occur, but they hope for the best.

“You know, you’re doing the best you can with the tools that we have, it is not perfect, it’s definitely not perfect,” she said. Sherry Silk and the county point to the dramatically declining number of cats being euthanized at the shelter and believe TNVR plays a role in that.

Don Thompson is hoping the county’s pilot feral cat program would produce data that would shed light on something more than how many cats were trapped and released. He questions how humane it is to release a cat into the wild with a fresh incision that could open at any time.

“For me personally, I would way rather lie in a bed and have somebody provide something that would let me go to sleep peacefully than I would to say, that you’re going to cut my guts out, drop me out onto the street, and let me bleed out,” he said.

If you have something you think should be investigated call the 8 On Your Side Help Line at 1 (800) 338-0808.

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