Critics say ‘no-kill’ stray cat policy is not working

Lexington County’s custom of returning stray cats to their former home area after spaying is under fire.

Some County Council members are seeking to end that approach after complaints that the cats still are destructive and roam neighborhoods after the procedure. “We need to rethink this,” Councilman Todd Cullum of Cayce said. “I don’t believe it’s working.”

The nine council members are awaiting recommendations for possible changes from county animal services officials and affiliated groups.

Frustration stems from a no-kill plan adopted in mid-2017 to neuter homeless cats that are nuisances. Supporters say that plan is more humane and effective in reducing litters than euthanizing cats.

About 1,800 stray cats were killed in the 758-square-mile county in the year before the no-kill plan began, officials have said.

County leaders agreed to allow spayed felines to be sent back to their familiar nesting areas after animal protection groups said strong homing instincts impel cats to return rather than settle into in a new home. Adoption is ruled out since experts warn the cats are difficult to domesticate.

Moving a stray cat to a new site often backfires, creating more roaming and new nesting sites, officials at Pawmetto Lifeline in Harbison and other groups say. But some residents remain unhappy with what they say is persistent destruction of plants and animal waste in their yards from nearby cat colonies.

Problems associated with stray cats are minimal in the largely rural western area of the county, Councilman Larry Brigham of Batesburg-Leesville said.

So far, there’s no push to scrap the no-kill plan. “I’m not callous to the fact they (stray cats) are living animals,” Mr. Cullum said. Finding a solution that satisfies everyone will be a challenge, some council members said.

“I don’t know what the happy medium is,” Councilwoman Beth Carrigg of Irmo said.