Organization to help stay cats on campus seeks official recognition

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    Librarian Cari Alexander had no idea how difficult helping TCU’s local strays would be when she developed Frogs and Cats Together, a feral cat organization, four years ago.

    Frogs and Cats Together at TCU aims to lower the feral cat population by conducting a trap, neuter and release program. In this program, stray cats are spayed or neutered and released back into the community in an attempt to keep them from breeding.

    According to the Web site for the Feral Friends Animal Rescue and Assistance, there are an estimated 65 million feral cats living in the United States, and 350,000 live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The City of Fort Worth Animal Care and Control Division suggests pet owners spay and neuter their pets to control the animal population.

    Frogs and Cats Together is responsible for fixing 48 cats and kittens and lowering the cat population from 10 to eight cats on campus, Alexander said. Trap-neuter-release is a more favorable solution than euthanasia because of a vacuum effect, she said.

    “The vacuum effect says if you move out a bunch of cats, a bunch more will move in,” Alexander said. “If there is food, water or shelter cats will be there and is why all college campuses have them.”

    The organization continues to seek official recognition from the university, Alexander said.

    Campus organizations can opt for several methods to be recognized by the university as an official organization, Omar Estrada Torres, assistant director for TCU Leadership Center and Student Development Services, said.

    “Any group on campus, Frogs and Cats Together included, that is interested in obtaining official university recognition must complete an application for recognition with the Office of Student Organizations,” Torres said.

    “Once that application is completed, our office conducts a comprehensive review of the application, and determines their eligibility for recognition,” Torres said.

    Because the organization is a faculty-run organization, it has not received official status from the university, Alexander said.

    “We don’t have a stable amount of student involvement,” Alexander said. “Students come and go and the foundation of our organization is the faculty and staff.”

    Campus organizations need to have continuous student involvement to maintain official status, Alexander said.

    Alexander said another issue that has kept the organization from becoming an official organization is potential liabilities or health risks to students. A large population of stray animals poses health and sanitation risks to the population in the form of opened trash bags or potential fleas, which is why there is a need for other programs, Alexander said.

    “A common misconception is that these cats harbor fleas and will scratch anyone who tries to touch them,” Alexander said.

    In addition to this misconception, the organization cannot shelter or maintain cat colonies as they are not an official organization, she said.

    “There are other things we can do like campus education, better maintenance of the colonies, low-cost spay and neuter help, build a Web site to direct people to help with their animals,” Alexander said.

    Anne Thomason, a representative for the city of Fort Worth Animal Care and Control Division, said it is working with the society as part of a pilot program for other organizations that aim to lower the feral cat population in Fort Worth. Results from the program will allow amendments to a city ordinance that regulates the number of organizations and how many cats they can take care of, Thomason said.

    A new ordinance is still under consideration at the Fort Worth Law Department, Thomason said. Thomason declined to provide details about the ordinance under consideration.

    Under the current ordinance, stray animals, or animals without the care of an owner, can be impounded at any time, according to the Fort Worth City Code and Charter.

    The City of Fort Worth does not have the ability to grant official status to an organization on campus, Thomason said.

    “That is solely a campus issue, ” Thomason said.