Muscatine debates what to do with feral cats | Local


DAVID HOTLE

MUSCATINE — With little discussion, Muscatine City Council decided not to have the first reading of an ordinance that would establish a trap, neuter and return policy for stray cats in the city.

The new ordinance, which the council asked city staff to pen during its May 12 meeting, would create a program where free-roaming cats, which may be feral or semi-feral, are humanely trapped, neutered, ear-clipped, vaccinated, determines healthy by a veterinarian and released. These criteria will apply to cats no one owns. The ordinance also stipulates that the city will have no responsibility for the care of community cats. Currently the city has no policy regarding feral cats.

After a public hearing on the proposed program during Thursday’s meeting, city administrator Carol Webb said a first reading of the ordinance would be postponed until the council is interested in taking up the matter again. Council member John Jindrich said he did not favor the program and did not think a first reading was necessary. Jindrich has previously said he visited with an animal control professional who recommended all feral cats be euthanized and he supports an aggressive program to “eliminate the problem.”

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“A feral cat, by the animal control professional, is treated the same way as a raccoon, possum and so forth — it is a wild animal and needs to be euthanized,” Jindrich said. “It has no value to a pet owner because it is not a pet. It has no value to a vibrant city to have cats running around.”

Council members Peggy Gordon, Dennis Froelich, and Dwayne Hopkins agreed. Gordon said she was “not there yet” and wanted to pause before moving ahead with the program. The council packet shows that the ordinance would violate several city codes, including a code against abandoning animals.

Council members Jeff Osborne and Nadine Brockert opposed the action. Osborne said when he lived in St. Louis, Mo., its trap and release program was effective.

“If you think about it, it is the humans who are the problem because they dump these cats off and leave them to fend for themselves,” Brockert said.

Council member Angela Lewis was absent.

During the public hearing, Casey Keeler, vice president of It Takes A Village Animal Rescue, said the trap, neuter, return (TNR) program is the only way to lower the feral cat population and save money. He said the animal control officer had been catching and killing cats for decades, which he said “has proven costly and ineffective.”

“Community cats are not socialized to people and are unadoptable,” he said. “If they are taken to shelters, they are more likely to be killed because they are not adoptable. That wastes taxpayer dollars. Removing cats from an area doesn’t work. It only causes a well-documented phenomenon called the vacuum effect. This is when new cats move into the space to take advantage of the resources and bring it back to the capacity it was before, as if you had done nothing.”

He argued people want a TNR program. A 2017 poll found a majority of people want their municipalities to adopt sterilization as its cat control policy. He said the animal rescue is offering the program to the city for free.

It Takes a Village member Isabelle Keeler said the TNR program also includes rabies vaccines. It Takes a Village member Griffin Keeler said community cats have helped keep rodent populations in town under control for many years.

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