NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Tens of thousands of stray cats in New York City could soon be under the control of a spay and neuter program.
The City Council is expected to vote on legislation that would require all five boroughs to begin sterilizing cats, reports CBS 2's Emily Smith.
It's difficult to say how many stray cats are on the streets of the city, but the shelters collect thousands each year.
"They're kind of annoying in our backyard, on our door step," said Leah Seyburn of Manhattan.
Help could be on the way. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is backing a new bill aimed at getting these unwanted animals under control.
If approved the bill would require the city to open shelters 12 hours a day, seven days a week. That's up from eight hours a day and only a few days a week.
It would also require people to spay or neuter cats they allow to roam free and rules would be issued by the health commissioner for all five boroughs to take part in trap-neuter-return programs.
That's an initiative where stray cats are picked up, neutered or spayed and sent back to the streets. That helps control the cat population, yet still allows the animals to poach rats and mice.
The guidelines for trap-neuter-return have not been specified yet, but the City Council expects that to be a bone of contention.
"Look, I think it's an innovative thing being done in other cities that will reduce the number of unwanted animals on our streets," Councilwoman Jessica Lappin said.
While some see the program as an alternative to euthanasia, not everyone is convinced it's best for the animals. PETA spokesperson Ashley Byrne said she believes euthanasia is more humane than trap, spay and return.
"Yes, a quick and painful end is better than dying of rabies or infected puncture wounds or simply freezing to death or overheating," Byrne said.
Many people have different feelings on trap, spay and return as part of the solution to controlling the cat population.
"I came from Israel and in Israel there are a lot of cats in the streets and they live wonderful, so I think it is a very good idea," said Sarai Katz of Manhattan.
"I think they need to be off the street. We don't want them in our backyard, don't want them following me. They need to be away somewhere else," Seyburn said.
Betsy Goldman runs a non-profit called "Friends of Animal Rescue."
"I want people to adopt. We can go do all we can, but it's like putting our fingers in a dam and not being able to stop the flow. We have to spay and neuter. It's the only answer, even if it means spay neuter and return," Goldman said.
Goldman called the potential regulations a step in the right direction for New York City, saying it controls the population yet gives the existing cats a chance to live -- even if it means life on the streets.
The bill is scheduled for a City Council hearing in the fall. It also increases the budget for shelters to more than $12 million.
Do you think this is a good idea? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.
for more features.