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Pottsville News

TNR Programs for Strays in Pottsville Promoted at Latest Free Beer Event

Animal organizations say Pottsville officials should have started a TNR program before threatening fines for feeding strays.

Facing almost certain citations from City government, the owner of Black Rock Brewing Co. in Pottsville hosted another Free Beer event Saturday on his condemned property.

This time, the event was dedicated to raising awareness to a controversial ban on feeding and interacting with stray animals in Pottsville.

City Council members voted in June to approve an ordinance that would impose a fine of up to $600 on Pottsville residents caught feeding stray cats and other animals.

That ordinance and the backlash that Pottsville officials have faced since passing it in early June prompted Bobby Weaver Jr. – who is no stranger to getting fined by the City – to host another Free Beer event at Black Rock.

Black Rock has been closed since May 2023 following a late-night kitchen fire. The City condemned the property and the two sides have been warring ever since.

Late last month, Weaver was found not guilty of violating 2 of 3 ordinances on which he was cited for hosting the first Free Beer event on March 16. That event was held on the same day as Pottsville’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and drew hundreds of people.

Saturday’s attendance was noticeably smaller. The oppressive weather may have had something to do with it. Regardless, it’s likely Weaver will be getting cited for hosting the event on Saturday.

But it did give three local pet organizations an opportunity to inform event attendees about the benefits of Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs and how to participate to help control the population of stray cats in Pottsville.

Jessica Hazelton, of Hillside SPCA, talks about the benefits of a Trap-Neuter-Release program and how the shelter can help individuals wanting to trap strays in Pottsville. (Coal Region Canary photo)

City officials say the controversial ordinance was passed as a means of reducing the population of strays in Pottsville.

But those representing Hillside SPCA, Strays No More, and Save the Strays-Schuylkill say fining people for feeding stray cats is the complete opposite of the right approach to accomplishing that goal.

“The only way to humanely control the cat population is through TNR, not starving them,” says Kylie Taylor, of Strays No More.

Becky Morgan, also of Strays No More, adds that banning the feeding of stray cats won’t necessarily get rid of the issue of strays in Pottsville.

“Even if they don’t feed them,” she says, “the cats aren’t going to go away. They’ll rip garbage up if they’re not fed. They won’t leave.”

At the Free Beer 2 event in Pottsville on Saturday, Strays No More volunteers were able to raise funds for their organization that helps individuals participate in TNR programs. (Coal Region Canary photo)

Taylor says Pottsville officials should have done more work prior to passing the controversial ban on feeding strays.

“They should have come up with a more effective plan to put in place first,” she says. “They should get together with local rescues and try to figure out a way to help start a TNR program. They city needs to really take charge like other cities have.”

In a TNR program, a Pottsville resident would get a humane trap from an animal clinic or shelter (or buy one on their own), trap a stray cat, take it to be fixed and vaccinated, and then release it back into its habitat.

A TNR program, they say, is healthy for the cats and benefits the city by reducing the likelihood of more stray or feral cats being born and also helping reduce rodent populations.

“People don’t realize what TNR really does,” says Rachel Zukas, of Save the Strays. “It stops the explosion of kittens and it just keeps the cycle going if you don’t TNR.”

Zukas concurs with Taylor in saying that banning the feeding of strays is not going to control the cat population the way the City may believe it will.

“It’s what they think is going to stop this. It’s not going to stop the overpopulation

But in order for a TNR program to be implemented, they say, Pottsville officials need to take the initiative.

Recently, Mayor Dave Clews says he’s willing to work with shelters to come up with a solution for the city’s stray cat issue.

“They just need to get together, find someone to control the funds and find organizations to work with. We would work with the city. I’m sure Save the Strays would work with the City of Pottsville,” Taylor says.

One of the big issues right now in Schuylkill County is the lack of available services that will perform spaying and neutering. That’s created a massive backlog of appointments.

If someone in Pottsville were to sign up today to participate in a TNR program, it’d be months before the procedure could be done.

But the organizations at Saturday’s Free Beer event say that is no reason to delay participating in such a program.

The one loophole written into the ordinance is that people working with animal clinics and shelters to get strays spayed or neutered wouldn’t be subject to fines.

Strays advocates here say people should sign up now, take care of the strays, and make the appointment – no matter how long the wait list has gotten – to have the cats spayed or neutered.

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