NEWARK — Licking County Prosecutor Bill Hayes, a Republican candidate for county commissioner, apologized Wednesday for suggesting a hunting season would help reduce the county’s feral cat population.
The comments came during a candidate question-and-answer forum Monday night at Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County.
News:Feral cat season in Licking County? Prosecutor proposes permanent solution to cat problem
Hayes, of Pataskala, faces incumbent Rick Black, of Union Township, in the May 3 Republican primary election. The Democrat candidates are DeVeonne Gregory, of Reynoldsburg, and Gail Herold, of Pataskala.
“I apologize to all those offended and I truly want to help with that problem and not hinder it,” Hayes said. “My words were poorly chosen. I know we can’t go around shooting cats.
“My solution was not a good one, not even feasible. But I think we should do something out of cooperation between veterinarians, advocates – in fact, we have people doing that now, who try to go around and do work with the feral cats.”
Politics:Democrat commissioner candidates Gregory, Herold hope to end Republican win streak
Hayes said his office has received a couple phone calls since the forum. He said the county and commissioners should put some money into addressing the feral cat problem.
“I said what I thought would get the conversation going,” Hayes said. “It did, but not in the way I expected. It’s an unreasonable solution and did not even get the conversation going. There’s nothing I could do or say that would change anybody’s opinion on my comment.”
Licking County Humane Society speaks out
The Licking County Humane Society board and staff said in a statement they are disappointed the county prosecutor would recommend taking an illegal action.
“The Ohio Revised Code makes the killing of domestic animals like cats explicitly against the law,” the LCHS said. “We do understand that feral cat colonies can be a nuisance to residents and suggest a thoughtful and systematic approach to putting an end to unwanted feline procreation.
“We encourage Prosecutor Hayes to review the Ohio Revised Code sections regarding animal cruelty. Feral and homeless cats are living beings and they deserve humane solutions to their overpopulation problem.”
What did the candidates say about Licking County’s feral cat population?
The candidates were asked what should be done to address the county’s feral cat problem and Hayes responded: “This won’t be very popular. We have a squirrel season, various seasons. It would seem to me if you’ve got an animal that’s not a pet for anybody, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to make the situation better.”
Black said, “I support getting the spay and neuter program going as much as we can. People got to take some personal responsibility for these animals.”
More about the forum:Intel planning dominates Republican Licking County commissioner forum
In the Democrat forum, Herold said, “I don’t think we should have open game season on them. I don’t really have a good answer to that. Cats serve a purpose and I’d like to see more of the farmers take them in.”
Gregory said, “We’re not an expert in that area, as county commissioners, but collaboration and reaching out to the experts — animal control. Taking ideas from them. Reach out to the agencies responsible for that.”
Humane Society executive director: ‘I think the community was pretty stunned by his comments’
Lori Carlson, executive director of the Licking County Humane Society, said the humane society accepts both cats and dogs, but cats take longer to get adopted. Licking County Animal Control only serves dogs. In the last decade, Carlson estimates the humane society has performed spaying or neutering on at least 5,000 cats.
Carlson said they have heard a considerable reaction from the community since the forum.
“We’ve had phone calls and messages on our social media,” Carlson said. “I think the community was pretty stunned by his comments. People are very passionate about animals in our area and that is not a humane solution.”
What’s the solution?:Nonprofit seeks help in curbing Licking County’s feral cat problem
Licking County TNR is a nonprofit organization started five years ago to provide trap, neuter and release services to a community overrun by feral cats. It not only alters the cats, it teaches neighbors how to feed and monitor a colony.
Joanna Reen, a veteranarian and executive director of Licking County TNR, said the organization is 100% volunteer-run and 100% donation funded.
“It’s one thing we’ve known for a long time that people don’t understand the feral cat problem or the solution,” Reen said. “The first thing we want to do is educate the people.
“The goal is to teach the colony caregiver how to do TNR correctly even after the initial push and reduce the impact on the neighborhood and neighbors and minimize the growth of the colony. We have reached 80% sterilization rate in a colony.”