Tuesday, July 30, 2013

City "Working" on Feral Cat Issue for Two Years

The City of San Angelo's Animal Services Board and Animal Shelter Staff began discussing the issue of feral cats in August 2011.  It's nearly two years later and the city has done nothing but take an aggressive, intimidating stance against the very people working to address the problem with volunteer time and resources.

Consider the Animal Services Board minutes from  August 18, 2011:

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
Health Services Director stated in a February 13, 2013 Animal Services Board meeting that she'd done research on other cities' feral cat ordinances

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 tired 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 

Two citizens spoke about the feral cat issue to City Council on July 16.  They followed up with Animal Services Board on July 18.  The Animal Services Board was completely unaware of the City's heavy-handed interdiction with one feral cat colony and City staffers unwillingness to meet with concerned citizens.

Yet, sanity prevailed when a board member and local veterinarian volunteered to chair a subcommittee to draft feral cat ordinances that would allow feral cat colonies to legally conduct Trap - Spay/Neuter - Return - Maintain in the City of San Angelo. 

This subcommittee has representatives from community animal service organizations and at least one opponent of feral cat colony management to decrease the population.  The subcommittee meets Wednesday, July 31.  How long before they have an ordinance proposal for the Animal Services Board to consider?  It could conceivably be by the end of their meeting. 

This subcommittee could accomplish in one meeting what the Board and management have been unable to do for nearly two years.  If past behavior is any indication, I expect city staffers to throw up roadblocks.  There hasn't been progress because Animal Control and city leaders don't want it.  That's clear.

No comments: