WANTAGE-Wantage Township is proposing a trap/neuter/return program in cooperation with surrounding municipalities to control the feral cat population growth in Sussex County. Jim Doherty, Wantage Township Administrator, has contacted Branchville, Franklin, Hamburg, Hampton, Lafayette, Montague, Sandyston, and Sussex -- towns that either utilize their dog pound or the services of their animal control officer -- to capture "kittens before they establish themselves in the wild and are no longer adoptable," said Doherty. "They would be under the care of a resident volunteer. The success of the program would depend on the efforts of volunteers who will undertake it and assist in the program." The technique to be employed, according to the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance, involves trapping the colony of cats, neutering or spaying them, returning them to their territory, and providing regular food and shelter. Young kittens that can still be socialized, as well as friendly adults, are placed in foster care for adoption. The procedure stabilizes the size of the colony by eliminating new litters and reduces the nuisance behavior associated with feral cats, yet allows them to continue to provide "natural rodent control," the organization states. The Animal Rights Alliance reports that trapping, neutering and releasing cats reduces the number of cats in shelters, resulting in lower euthanasia rates. Since the practice was instituted in San Francisco six years ago, that city's feral cat population has declined 71 percent, the alliance reports. "Feeding and caring for it for seven days, euthanizing the cat if it is not adopted, and then the cost of cremating the body, represents an ever-increasing cost burden on the taxpayers, not to mention the concern it raises with animal rights organizations regarding the number of cats that are euthanized each year," said Doherty. "This perpetuates an expensive public nuisance issue for our communities." Doherty said Wantage expects to apply for several grants that will assist in the start-up and maintenance costs of the program, as well as the cost of advertising and promoting the program and educating citizens about it.