Saturday, August 03, 2013

City's Nonpublic Stance on Feral Cats

The City of San Angelo Animal Services Board raised the topic of feral cats two years ago.  It revisited the subject several times, but never produced a draft of new policies or ordinances for the Board, much less City Council, to consider.

City Animal Services chose to target a longstanding feral cat colony in mid-June.  Animal Control Officers threatened a community volunteer with arrest and huge fines if they continued feeding feral cats, many of which had been spayed/neutered at the volunteer's expense.  Others had been spayed/neutered with grant funds.

City staff trapped four feral cats on private property without permission from the owner and stole food bowls sitting on same private property.  The Animal Shelter killed the four cats, three of which had been sterilized with grant funds. 

Community animal service organizations quickly asked questions.  City leaders were obtuse and circumspect on the change in strategy.  They stated they had complaints and called the animals at this particular colony a nuisance.   Much of the city's actions and supporting logic are not supported by ordinance.

The document below has information produced in response to a public information request.  E-mails from Health Services Director Sandra Villareal and Animal Services Manager Julie Vrana haven't provided a consistent legal foundation for the city's intervention.  The tone of their communication indicates why there has been no change, no willingness to collaborate with community organizations on managing San Angelo's feral cat problem.

The last two slides in this document detail the public information request and the City's response to date.  

These documents support the city's insensitivity and intransigence on this issue.  However, there is an opportunity for change and collaboration.

Community animal service organizations want one thing, space carved out to manage feral cat colonies legally and without harassment.  For the vast majority of San Angelo's landscape Animal Services can continue its "Trap and Kill" approach toward feral cats.  These groups simply want the right to manage approved feral cat colonies via "Trap-Spay/Neuter-Return-Maintain."

It's clear from e-mails that city staff have little interest in change.  However, there is a new sheriff in town.  City Manager Daniel Valenzuela could create the expectation that obstructionists become proponents, that city staff collaborate and perform the required leg work.  If that happens our community could have a shot at significant grant funds to address San Angelo's feral cat problem.

For their to be a public-private partnership, the public portion has to be willing to collaborate with the private.  The next two months, roughly the length of a cat pregnancy, will be telling.

1 comment:

TheSkeptic said...

Wow, looks like Mr. Wilson needs to lose his job.

Then again I guess we could always arm every 10 year old in town with a BB gun and give them a license to shoot him in the ___.

Just kidding of course!