Sunday, August 11, 2013

Foot Dragging City Staff Find Feral Cats Jokeworthy

City Animal Control leadership has done nothing for two years other than talk about San Angelo's feral cat problem.  Their public position changed in June when Animal Control Officers began a heavy handed, enforcement action against the Mejor Que Nada feral cat colony and its longtime citizen volunteer.  Local animal service organizations and volunteer citizens wondered what changed.

A public information request produced a handful of e-mails with content on the city's "Trap and Kill" policy toward community cats.  One was particularly insightful:

PIO Anthony Wilson's words speak for themselves.

Health Services Director Sandra Villareal, with her Smiley Face reaction, appointed the very person who would agree with Anthony "Killer" Wilson to an ordinance subcommittee dealing with community cats.   Cat Hater Linda long proved her ignorance of existing ordinances in Animal Service Board minutes and that was on display in the first subcommittee meeting.  It's clear that Linda is part of the city's obstructionist plans regarding feral cats.

The city says it wants something done to address the feral cat problem.  They could consider a leap back in time.  From 2003 to 2007 the City Animal Shelter collaborated with the forerunner to Concho Valley PAWS and its 25 feral cat colonies.

Today's Standard Times article, "Colony of Feral Cat Colonies Far Smaller," had Health Services Director Sandra Villareal stating:

"You also really need to get them spayed and neutered, so there are a lot of responsibilities that will come with colony caregivers.  If they're willing to do it and the city will allow it...(and) as long as there are no complaints, they can continue caring for the cats and things will be more specifically to feral cats."
For some reason paid city staff can't speak what these citizen volunteers have done.  One group ran free spay-neuter feral cat clinics, sterilizing nearly 500 community cats in the last year. Another started Angelo State University's feral cat colony, which prevented over 800 new cats since its establishment.  ASU President Brian May is a strong supporter of this employee led group, which has some student volunteers.   As some colony caregivers have done this for the last decade, their willingness is not in question. However, the city's desire to make safe, legal space for community cat managers to operate is in question.

The City of San Angelo once partnered with community groups on feral cats.  However, personnel changed and the City shifted to an adversarial, enforcement posture.  It's clear Animal Control leadership will use every tool in its arsenal to slow or derail progress. 

The draft of an ordinance will need approval from the Animal Shelter Services Board and the City's legal department before being presented to City Council. "It's a lengthy process, so it's not going to be in the next month or so," Villareal said.

The City's legal department already played a restrictive role in fulfilling the public information request.  The City Attorney filed a request with the Texas Attorney General to withhold the Mejor Que Nada complaints.  Health Services Director Sandra Villareal held up a folder in a meeting with local animal service organizations on the Mejor situation.  She said, "Here are the complaints from my Animal Control Officers.  Just kidding!"  The jokes keep coming.  I believe the Attorney General should deny the City's legal request to withhold documents filed by city workers in the conduct of their job. 

The City's "lengthy process" means San Angelo will likely miss out on a $100,000 grant opportunity.  No grant funder would approve funds to spay-neuter community cats in our current legal no man's land.  It's time for City Manager Daniel Valenzuela to ask his crew to cut the funny stuff.

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