The proverbial cat is out of the bag – the Jefferson police department really does shoot cats.
Jefferson mayor Craig Berry reported at the April 10 city council meeting that he and police chief Mark Clouse had met earlier that day with Linn Price of Animal Protection and Education (APE) and Scott Wilson, animal welfare intervention coordinator/animal control officer for the Animal Rescue League (ARL) in Des Moines. Shooting feral cats was the topic of discussion.
Berry said they discussed possible changes to the city ordinances pertaining to cats. Price and Wilson proposed that Jefferson implement a spay-neuter-return policy, whereby feral cats that are trapped are altered, vaccinated, and released. Clouse told the council that some cities, including Boone, have that policy, but it is against current Jefferson city ordinances.
Clouse will look at ordinances from many towns, and he’ll look at the Jefferson ordinance where it pertains to numbers of animals a resident can have. “We have people that are creating somewhat of a nuisance by free-feeding animals. We’ve got to know where those locations are. This is a pretty comprehensive thing,” Berry said
“We’ve got to figure out what works for Jefferson and what works for the police department,” he said.
Clouse and Berry said the process could take as long as 18 months.
In Jefferson, residents can purchase or borrow traps for nuisance cats. After the meeting Clouse explained to GreeneCountyNewsOnline editor Tori Riley that under the current policy, when an officer responds to a call of a trapped cat, he makes a determination if the cat is “unadoptable.” Unadoptable cats are shot and taken to the Jefferson Veterinary Clinic for disposal.
The determination isn’t based solely on the cat’s behavior, but also on its appearance. If it looks like it’s been cared for, the cat is taken to the “animal holding facility,” as the JPD calls the shelter. Cats that appear uncared for are shot.
Clouse said there are at least three colonies of feral cats in town. One of them has more than 65 cats. They’re fed by well-meaning residents, but the cats become a public health issue because they aren’t vaccinated. They become neighborhood nuisances when the urinate or defecate in garages or on porches, when they harass birds, etc.
Being able to require vaccinations is one of the reasons cities have licensing ordinances for companion animals. Clouse estimates that less than 15 percent of the cats and only 35 to 40 percent of the dogs in Jefferson are licensed.
On Wednesday morning Price of APE said the information she and Wilson provided about trap-neuter-return programs in other towns was well-received. She said she’d prefer to see cats held for at least three days before a determination of its future is made. She said there is a lot of variables in how soon a cherished, well-cared for cat would look uncared for if it ends up on its own outdoors.
One of the challenges is that there isn’t an appropriate place to shelter cats during a waiting period. “We just don’t have the infrastructure right now,” she said.