A kitten, the offspring of a feral cat, is in...

A kitten, the offspring of a feral cat, is in the isolation room at Cove Animal Rescue in Glen Cove, which runs the city animal shelter, on Dec. 29, 2016. Credit: Barry Sloan

The Glen Cove City Council has approved a program to neuter feral cats, which officials say are numerous in parts of the city.

The council voted unanimously on Tuesday to pay Cove Animal Rescue $1,000 a month to trap, neuter and return cats to the area where they were caught.

The city has paid the Glen Cove-based nonprofit to run the city animal shelter since February 2015. But a neutering program was not part of the agreement. Instead, the organization has spent more than $12,000 of its own money to neuter more than 225 cats, Betty Geiger, president of the group’s board, said in an interview.

“They’ve been paying for it out of pocket on their own, and it’s a community benefit,” Deputy Mayor Barbara Peebles said at the council meeting.

Feral cats roam throughout the city. One of Peebles’ concerns is about colonies of feral cats that live at the sites of the Garvies Point and Villa development projects. As the land is cleared for construction, the cats will be displaced, scattering them to residents’ yards and other locations, she said.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” Peebles said.

Feral cats are not socialized and usually too afraid of people to be adopted.

Credit: James Carbone

“What you are really doing is controlling and containing,” Geiger said. “Eventually, natural attrition will shrink the population.”

Joan Phillips told council members that when the Locust Valley-based Animal Lovers League operated the city animal shelter for 20 years before CAR took over, the league received no city money for neutering.

“Now we’re adding something else to the taxpayers’ obligation,” said Phillips, co-founder of the nonprofit Animal Lovers League.

Phillips said after the meeting that the league neutered about 14,500 feral cats over 20 years with private funds, and most of the cats were from Glen Cove.

Peebles said she is skeptical that so many cats were neutered during that time. Animal shelter employees have told city officials that most of the neutered cats were from outside Glen Cove — one of a number of issues that led to moving animal shelter operations to Cove Animal Rescue, Peebles said. The council last week also voted to pay the group $92,902 to operate the shelter in 2017, the same amount as in 2016.

After the rescue group began its neutering program, there was a noticeable drop in the number of feral cats and resident complaints about them, Peebles said.

Phillips said no city money should be allocated for neutering until a detailed neutering plan is provided.

Peebles said a formal plan is expected soon. Geiger said the rescue group has an informal plan that includes buying specialized surgical equipment for neutering so veterinarians can perform a number of procedures on the same day at the shelter. Currently, volunteers bring feral cats to local veterinarians’ practices.