Saving more feral cats while better controlling their population is the aim of a proposed county program, which will be the subject of a series of public input meetings scheduled in August and September.

Under the proposed program, the county would sterilize, ear tip and vaccinate healthy strays brought into Pinellas County Animal Services that are considered too feral to be adopted. They would then be returned to their original location to live as community cats.

A proposed ordinance update also under consideration would make it legal to own outdoor cats provided the owner has them sterilized, vaccinated, licensed and microchipped.

Animal Services staff will host three meetings, each in a different region of the county, to educate the community about the proposed program and ordinance updates, and get citizens’ feedback.

The meeting times are as follows:

• Tuesday, Aug. 20, 6-8 p.m., at the Lealman Exchange, 5175 45th St. N., St. Petersburg.

• Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2-4 p.m., at the Pinellas County Extension Magnolia Room, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo.

• Thursday, Sept. 5, 6-8 p.m., St. Petersburg College Tarpon Springs Campus, Room LY156, 600 E Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs.

National research has shown that only about 2% of community cats in the United States are spayed or neutered and these unsterilized cats account for about 80% of kittens born each year, making them the biggest source of cat overpopulation in the United States, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

A “return-to-field” policy, which the county is considering, is an effective way to control and decrease feral cat colonies over time through sterilization.

The proposed program supports Pinellas County Animal Service’s commitment to building a safe and healthy animal community for everyone by: making sure unwanted pets have a safe place to go; carefully considering their behavioral and physical health; finding a loving home for every safe, healthy animal; and adopting policies to address our community’s needs.

For information on how to adopt, donate or volunteer, join Pinellas County Animal Services on Facebook. To learn more about the shelter, visit www.pinellascounty.org/animalservices or call 727-582-2600.