Throughout April, Alley Cat Allies is honoring the work of dedicated animal control agencies, animal shelters, and their staff with our Animal Care & Control Appreciation Month! National Animal Care & Control Appreciation Week is April 9-15, but we’ve decided to extend the celebration. Animal control officers (ACOs) and animal shelter staff are on the front lines helping cats and have the power to make a positive impact for cats in their communities.

We highlighted exceptional animal shelter staff and animal control officers weekly, and we hosted two webinars: The Benefits of a Community, Animal, and Shelter Supported Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Program  and Working With Animal Control and Shelters to Save More Cats, which you can watch anytime!

Johnson County Animal Control, Indiana

Sergeant Atwood carries April to a play room for fun and enrichment.

For an animal care and control agency, there’s a fundamental part of implementing a successful Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program that is often overlooked, says Director Michael Delp of Johnson County Animal Control in Indiana. It’s that animal control officers, shelter staff, and the shelter’s leaders need to work together and support each other’s work. In fact, Delp says he owes the success of the county’s TNR program to the dedication and teamwork of his staff.

Cats like Gouda and her kittens, who were trapped as strays but are now in a foster home, benefit from Johnson County Animal Control’s Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program.

Now that the county does TNR, animal control officers like Sergeant Atwood have more time to spend with adoptable cats like Precious.

After implementing a TNR program, the shelter no longer euthanizes healthy community cats. In four years, it went from euthanizing more than 1,000 community cats each year to euthanizing less than 50—and only for severe health issues. For the agency’s service to cats and the community, we’re proud to honor it as part of our Animal Care & Control Month.

Johnson County Animal Control works throughout a 150,000-person, 320-square-mile area. It has six full-time animal control officers and seven shelter staff members. It takes in more than 2,000 animals each year, including about 900 cats—many of whom now enter the TNR and barn cat programs.

Animal control’s journey into TNR started in 2013, when Delp met with representatives from a TNR program in adjacent Marion County, who were interested in helping Johnson County start a similar program.

Besides having support from animal control officers and the shelter staff, the TNR program had the support of a county commissioner, Brian Baird, who is a “true animal lover” and “always looks to be proactive rather than reactive,” says Delp.

“With his help, it was impossible to fail,” says Delp. Baird helped ensure that a TNR ordinance passed in the county.

Now Johnson County Animal Control has a TNR officer, whose primary responsibility is to do TNR and who also works closely with the Humane Society of Johnson County.

Johnson County Animal Control, along with the Humane Society of Johnson County, also received a grant from Alley Cat Allies in 2014 as part of our Future Five: Shelter Partners to Save Cats’ Lives program to help expand humane and effective programs for cats.

The way Delp sees it, there are three main benefits to a successful TNR program. First, it is the right thing to do.

Volunteer Coordinator Lil Deans and Office Manager Cari Klotzsche enjoy playing with kittens.

“There is no nobility in killing healthy animals,” he says. “It causes high turnover in shelter staffs, leads to compassion fatigue, and generates a bad reputation for any shelter.”

Second, it is the only proven, effective way to control the community cat population.

Third, it saves taxpayers money, he says. Euthanasia is expensive, not to mention the costs for constantly training new staff because of the frequent employee turnover at high-kill shelters.

Director Delp, thanks to you and your staff for successfully saving the lives of community cats in Johnson County!