LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

Since 2008, the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley has taken in more than 32,000 cats.

On Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners approved a plan to bring down the feral cat population.

Every year, the shelter takes in thousands of cats. Many of those animals have to be killed because there isn't enough space.

Commissioners hope a trap-neuter-release (TNR) program will fix the problem.

"It will happen over time. Given the opportunity to develop our program, get caretakers and coordinators together, we will have an impact on maintaining feral cat populations," one woman said at the county commission meeting.

The shelter killed 2,000 feral cats this year.

A single feral cat can produce three or four litters of kittens a year. Proponents of the TNR program said it's the key to reducing the cat population.

County commissioners included the program in a new animal control ordinance.

People in the community will capture feral cats. Then they will take them to the animal shelter where the cats will get spayed or neutered, vaccinated and released back into the community.

Commissioners hope this will bring down the amount of disease in the feral cat population. They also believe it will help local wildlife. Fewer feral cats means fewer attacks on birds and smaller animals.

All the cats captured in the TNR program will be vaccinated for rabies. They will also be micro-chipped and marked as part of the program.