Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Minutes Regarding Feral Cats: A Historical Perspective

The Animal Services Board discussed feral cats in their February 21, 2013 meeting.  The minutes relative to that agenda item are below:

Feral Cat Program (Sandra Villarreal)
Sandra – I put this issue on the agenda to find out what y’all want to do. I did some research about other cities’ feral cat ordinance. Dallas has a TNR program and those colonies are managed by 2 rescue organizations. Denton’s colonies are registered and managed by the city. Ft. Worth, in my opinion, has a really good program. The animal groups have to comply with the ordinances and the city approves sponsors (rescues) to manage these programs. Caregivers who fall under sponsors have responsibilities and it’s all laid out on paper in defined rules. Lubbock and Alamo Heights have the city run their whole program which I think is too much. So see what y’all want to do about this. Do you want to pursue it or leave as is?
Linda – I see no reason to pass an ordinance because we don’t enforce what have now. And there are no groups stepping up to fix the issue because they can’t afford to
Julie – yes we do manage cats, we just can’t chase them around with a snare pole. We will pick up cats in traps or injured cats and we have traps to loan out
Linda – why does the city insist people by their own trap? It’s ridiculous. The city should purchase these traps
Julie – we had them at one time and they were damaged by people, the resources were depleted and some people would just rather buy their own. We don’t have the resources to handle everyone
Linda – I’m tire of fighting about this. No one cares; no one wants to take responsibility. We should just take it off the agenda
Wendy – we try but we have a hard time with not enough staff
Linda – I understand
Tom – the city should require a deposit for the trap that way when it’s returned without damage, they can get the deposit back
Julie – that’s a good idea and we had that at my other job, but San Angelo people don’t have the money for that. We go out and chain the trap and log it and talk to people about feeding feral cats. We have a handle on it
Faye – is there a length of time that they have the traps?
Julie – it depends but usually 7-10 days
City officials presented the following slide, which mentions "Trap Neuter Release" during the meeting.

 Under "Topics for Next Meeting" the following was documented:

Dr. Russell – so we’ll see about getting the statistics reports for the feral cats
Wendy – if the rescues aren’t actively participating, can we see the reports too?
Sandra – it’s still not approved. This would have to go through council and maybe require an open ended public information request. You’re welcome to look at it, but it needs to be approved
Linda – please take this seriously
Dr. Russell – we’ll look this over and talk about it at the next meeting
Linda – someone said it’s illegal to feed these cats. Is that true? Because I see people doing that all the time
Julie – you need to let us know when you do so we can address it
Linda – it’s every day
Julie – we will go to the address and speak with the resident. It’s not enough to just say there’s a cat problem
Linda – no, there’s a people problem
Cristie – I think feeding these cats is more cruel. It needs to stop
Linda – maybe by letting people know it’s illegal?
Sandra – we should look into getting that in articles in the paper
Faye – when will you go to council?
Sandra – we have to approve this first so April or May

At least one person in attendance stated their comment was both incomplete and taken completely out of context.  While it's clear the city wished to do something different regarding feral cats, no formal program has been shared with City Council, area animal organizations or the public.  A deeper historical dive might be instructive.

Feral cats came up in August 2011.  The minutes show:

Feral Cats(Dr. Russell)
Dr. Russell – it’s obvious we have a problem around town with feral cats so here’s where we discuss how to deal with them. Any ideas?
Faye – what about TV time? Or we could offer cages to trap them for the shelter
Julie – we get calls all the time about this issue and we advise where to by the traps. We have a few on hand and would love to supply them but people have abused the privilege before so we no longer can. Harbor Freights, I believe, is the cheapest.
Faye – this is a real problem in San Angelo. We need to get the message out to the general public. Sometimes people don’t think about how they can help with the problem
Julie – there are organic remedies on how to get rid of them like cayane pepper or mothballs and not feeding your animals outside.
Linda – the city seems like it wants to throw the problem onto the citizens but the city needs a program in place to deal with this
Susan – the goal is to decrease the population
Julie – we do already pick up all trapped feral cats
Linda – this is not against you, but the city needs to take responsibility for this. Right now it’s on the home owners and citizens and the city needs to step up. Spay and neuter or kill the cats. All of your suggestions throw all responsibility back on the public
Julie – I am sure the city would want to help in any way they can but there’s money involved
Susan – I don’t really feel like there’s enough awareness out there and that brings me back to TV/radio advertisements. I think more people would be more responsible if they were more aware
Linda – I know some people will feed these cats and like having them around, but they see them as semi-pets and they’re not taking responsibility for them
Julie – yes we have certain ‘problem’ houses that we will go to and talk to owners about. We do try to go out and educate
Tom – I have a comment about killing cats. That may be a great idea to get rid of feral cats but the problem is that that could also affect owned cats
Linda – yes but owned cats are not supposed to be outside as far as city ordinance is concerned but it’s not enforced.
Dr. Russell – does anyone know if any other cities have policies in place?
Linda – I’ll ask Abilene
Dr. Russell – it seems like the problem is bigger here but I’m sure it’s not a problem that’s unique to us. I disagree with poisoning and would much prefer trapping because you never know what you might kill with poison and it’s more humane
Linda – but by having a lot more trapping, the shelter would have a lot more cats to handle. How many are adoptable?
Julie – we hold them for the stray hold if they’re not sick but we judge what is adoptable by their temperament
Faye – do you let people know that some of these cats are feral?
Julie – we have a wild cat room where we place the feral cats so while we have some people who have reclaimed their wild cat we don’t adopt out cats that have the potential to hurt someone
Faye – has anyone wanted to specifically adopt out a feral cat?
Julie – no, we can’t adopt them out
Linda – can the shelter handle the larger influx of cats if we had some kind of trapping program?
Julie – we would have to. We do what we can
Dr. Russell – ok we can check more into that later and possibly come up with a proposal

Here's the content of a May 2010 discussion on the same topic.

Review of current feral cat policy.
Ms. Vrana reviewed the Procedure for Finding a Lost Pet at the Shelter with the board members. This is the same procedure for feral cats. Ms. Olesen asked if the procedure is in effect right now. Ms. Olesen also wanted to know if the procedure is not followed who the public goes to for rectification of the situation. Ms. Vrana informed Ms. Olesen to call the shelter first and if she is unable to answer her question then she will be directed to her immediate supervisor.

Mr. Lockett stated that at one time there were special programs for feral cats. He stated that whenever a notched ear cat was brought into the shelter the Humane Society was notified and they picked up the animal form the shelter at no cost. Ms. Wilson stated that this was the case about 2 years ago and that the funding for feral cats was exhausted. Currently there are 12 colony mangers on file and active with the Humane Society. Since the funding was exhausted and the Humane Society doesn’t have any funds available now these managers take advantage of the low cost spay and neuter voucher program. Ms.Wilson stated that notched ear cats do have colonies they belong to. Ms. Vrana stated that the shelter did get a notched ear cat and called several colony managers and were told they were not an active colony. 

Ms. Wilson asked Ms. Vrana to call the Humane Society next time they have a notched ear cat, because sometimes these cats can be integrated into the rural area colonies of the county.  Ms. Marcelli asked for an explanation of what a colony and a colony manger were. Ms. Wilson stated that a feral cat colony is where all the cats have been spayed or neutered and vaccinated and taken care of by a colony manger. 

These colonies keep these cats from reproducing and are under the Trap, Neuter Release Program. Ms. Marcelli stated that this doesn’t stop a feral cat from going to her yard and spreading diseases. Ms. Olesen stated that only killing all cats would take care of the spreading of disease problems. 

Mr. Lockett informed the board members that catch and kill doesn’t work. Ms. Marcelli stated that in the city of San Angelo there is a huge feral cat population. Ms. Wilson stated that the Trap, Neuter, Release program does work put you need to have people that can invest the time and commit to continue to work on the feral cat issues for an extended period of time. A project like feral cat colonies needs to have community support and neighborhood involvement and commitment in order to be successful.

The city withdrew its community support of feral cat colonies last week.  With its limited resources San Angelo's Animal Services went after the few people making a difference in this regard.

Yesterday I suggested the City learn from those with experience.  That includes Angelo State University which instituted trap and kill over Christmas 2011 under Dr. Rallo.  The two cats pictured at the top of this post survived ASU's Christmas Cat Massacre and are proof that some feral cats can be socialized and become adoptable.

It's clear the city wants a change regarding feral cats.  The minutes aren't much help as to how or why?  Animal Services should explain their desired changes to City Council and why they jumped on a dedicated local volunteer last week.

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