The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved a new program intended to reduce the number of feral cats that are euthanized each year.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the Community Cats program, which will trap, sterilize, vaccinate and release feral and “free-roaming” local cats.

The program is a $1.5 million partnership between the Pima Animal Care Center, the Best Friends Animal Society and PetSmart Charities.

The goal is to sterilize 5,000 cats in each of the next three years. Animal-care workers want to decrease the euthanasia of cats by about 30 percent.

About 45 percent of the Animal Care Center’s euthanasia cases are of feral cats found on the streets, according to county officials.

Best Friends will contribute nearly $1 million over the three years, which will pay for three full-time workers at the Pima Animal Care Center, supplies for the “trap-neuter-return” program and training for its own staff and animal shelter employees.

Pima County will contribute $600,000 to pay for spay and neuter surgeries performed by local groups, including the Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic and the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

The program received overwhelming support from the community, with the county receiving about 450 emails and messages, most asking the board to vote for the plan.

“I think we as a community have evolved beyond a euthanasia-only option,” Supervisor Ramón Valadez said.

Supporters say the program is a humane and effective way to reduce the population of feral cats without having to euthanize them.

Just about all cats that come into the county shelter are euthanized unless they are kittens that can be domesticated, officials said.

About 1,600 feral cats are now euthanized each year.

The supporters have noted the program’s success in five other communities where there have been reductions in cat euthanasia.

Most of the people who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting reiterated these points, saying the program has the potential to save thousands of cats.

The supporters let out a round of applause after the board approved the program.

However, not everyone was happy.

Some who spoke at the meeting criticized the plan, saying the cats could harm birds, pose a health risk to other animals and get killed in other inhumane ways.

Election concerns

The Board of Supervisors rejected two proposals from the county Election Integrity Commission, including a request to conduct an audit of early ballots for the Aug. 26 primary election by hand count.

The board voted 4-1 to reject the two measures, with Supervisor Ally Miller supporting the proposals.

The proposals also included buying scanning machines for voter precincts, along with the centralized vote tabulation system the county is already looking to buy.

Supporters of the measures, including most of the Election Integrity Commission, said auditing the early ballots with hand counts and purchasing the scanners would help with election accountability and transparency while protecting against voter fraud.

But county officials said a hand count audit is too risky, could lead to errors and is unlikely to be done with complete accuracy.

Officials also said it would be “problematic” to make the change with the election only a few weeks away.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said scanning machines for precincts would cost too much, and the county’s move toward a central vote-counting system is aligned with the trend toward early voting by mail.

However, Supervisor Ramón Valadez asked Huckelberry to compile a history of actions the county has taken to make elections more transparent.

Valadez also asked Huckelberry to study what other precincts around the country have done to increase transparency.

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at or 573-4242. On Twitter @JamarYounger