Cedar Rapids considering rules for controlling feral cat population

Lex, a more than 10-year-old feral cat, looks around as it eats Sept. 30 at its shelter after Amy Holcomb, board president of Johnson County Humane Society, and her daughter, Cynthia, brought food and water for the cat and its companion, Sunshine, in Iowa City. Holcomb and other volunteers care for several cat colonies: bringing them food and water, checking on their health and building shelters. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A proposed ordinance meant to regulate the inhabitants of free-roaming cats in Cedar Rapids is inflicting concern amongst animal welfare activists over provisions that embody setting a threshold for ceasing to feed to animals.

The adjustments, if adopted by the Metropolis Council, would make Cedar Rapids one among a number of cities in Japanese Iowa to undertake guidelines for “trap-neuter-return” — a typical means of protecting neighborhood cat populations underneath management with out having to euthanize them.

What’s TNR?

“For a very long time, the mannequin of managing out of doors populations of cats was primarily to lure and euthanize or lure and relocate these cats,” stated Preston Moore, the Iowa director for the Humane Society of america. “And what we have discovered over time is that a way more efficient means of managing the inhabitants numbers over the long run is to lure, neuter and return these cats to the place they had been. Along with it being simpler in the long term, it is thought of to be extra humane towards the cats.”

Amy Holcomb, board president of Johnson County Humane Society, pets Lex as she and her daughter, Cynthia, bring food and water Sept. 30 for the cat and its companion, Sunshine, in Iowa City. Lex is more than 10 years old and Sunshine is about 8. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Many of the TNR work is finished by volunteers who take cost of the well-being of a colony of cats close to their residence, normally by leaving out meals for the cats and trapping them one by one to have them neutered. When veterinarians neuter a feral cat, in addition they will clip the nook of its ear off to make it simply identifiable as a neighborhood cat.

Some volunteers additionally pay to have their colony cats microchipped, so the volunteer could be contacted if the cat is picked up and dropped at a shelter.

TNR in Johnson County

In cities with no TNR ordinance, feral cats which are picked up and dropped at shelters typically shall be euthanized. Cats that develop up within the wild haven’t been socialized with folks and normally aren’t appropriate for adoption, and could be harmful to different animals within the shelter, stated Amy Holcomb, president of the Johnson County Humane Society.

The Johnson County Humane Society does work in cities within the county which have lately added language to their codes legalizing TNR for shelters and volunteers. Holcomb takes care of a number of neighborhood cat colonies in Johnson County herself.

Iowa Metropolis and North Liberty handed TNR ordinances in 2019, and Coralville handed one in 2021.

Holly Wilkinson, the animal management officer with the Coralville Police Division, stated that the feral cat populations within the metropolis already had been lowering due to extra growth. However for the reason that ordinance handed in 2021, she will get fewer calls about teams of cats and mom cats with kittens. Many of the cat-related calls now are about single, stray cats.

“If we simply get a name for a stray cat roaming round, we’ll supply a lure to catch it. If it’s a pet cat, we’ll take care of it. If it’s a cat at giant or if it is a stray cat, we’ll attempt to see if that has an proprietor. If not, then at that time it might probably turn into a TNR cat,” Wilkinson stated.

If a stray cat is captured in Coralville that’s sick or injured, it gained’t be returned. Cats additionally gained’t be returned if the property proprietor the place the cat was discovered doesn’t need the cat again on their property, in response to the Coralville ordinance. In that case, police will work with volunteers to see if there’s some other place the cat could be launched.

TNR isn’t inspired by each neighborhood

Not all communities apply TNR.

In Marion, for instance, it’s unlawful to feed and handle feral cats. However the legislation is troublesome to implement as a result of folks typically declare to personal the cats they’re feeding, stated Marion Police Chief Mike Kitsmiller.

“We simply don’t have time to do a stakeout to ensure it’s their cats,” he stated.

Kitsmiller stated Marion doesn’t have a lot of an issue with feral cats, so the police division doesn’t normally take care of them. If somebody complains a couple of cat being a nuisance, the town has traps that may be loaned so the person can take the cat to a shelter or launch it some other place.

“If it’s a cat that occurs to be residing there and it’s not vicious or bothering anyone, we simply don’t do it,” Kitsmiller stated.

Hiawatha additionally doesn’t have a selected coverage for feral cats, largely as a result of the town hasn’t had a lot of an issue with them, in response to police Capt. Pat Kremer.

“We have not acquired any complaints about neighborhood cats in a number of years. Our law enforcement officials deal with animal management calls, and all animals are taken to the Cedar Valley Humane Society,” Kremer stated.

What’s totally different concerning the proposed Cedar Rapids ordinance?

Animal welfare activists have expressed issues about just a few of the necessities within the proposed Cedar Rapids ordinance, which they are saying would create pointless obstacles to volunteers and make their work inaccessible within the metropolis.

The ordinance was offered Sept. 18 to the Metropolis Council’s Public Security and Youth Companies Committee by Kelly Kelly, program supervisor for the town’s Animal Care and Management. Cedar Rapids checked out comparable ordinances in different cities throughout the nation and held two public enter periods in Could, in response to Kelly.

The proposed ordinance would permit for TNR work within the metropolis however solely with particular laws. Among the laws line up with guidelines in different close by cities, like requiring feeding stations to be a minimum of 150 yards away from metropolis parks, wildlife facilities or colleges, and requiring that meals be put out solely throughout sunlight hours to discourage attracting different animals.

However different laws envisioned within the ordinance raised issues.

One proposed provision is that cat managers be required to cease TNR actions — together with feeding the cats — after 90 p.c of the colony has been sterilized.

Kelly stated throughout the committee assembly that the ordinance initially had proposed TNR ought to cease after 80 p.c sterilization, however that share was raised after issues had been expressed throughout the neighborhood enter conferences.

“The objective ideally could be one hundred pc, however I additionally know over time of being with animal management that I can’t all the time inform an orange tabby from the subsequent one, so some cats could also be missed right here and there for the TNR,” Kelly stated.

Lex eats Sept. 30 at its shelter after Amy Holcomb, board president of Johnson County Humane Society, and her daughter, Cynthia, brought food and water for the feral cat and its companion in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Holcomb stated she believes stopping feeding could be inhumane after the cats have discovered to depend on meals being offered, and that it will not be as efficient in lowering colony numbers.

“None of us who do TNR would ever simply cease at a colony once we really feel like we’ve executed sufficient, as a result of we all know that the inhabitants will proceed to develop once more … and the thought of not feeding the cats after they’ve been fed, it will simply make them roam and get into folks’s trash and turn into extra of a nuisance,” Holcomb stated.

“We love these cats. I don’t suppose folks perceive how a lot we love them. In the event that they inform folks to cease feeding them, that’s simply not one thing that we are able to even take into consideration doing.”

Amy Holcomb (left), board president of Johnson County Humane Society, and her daughter, Cynthia, bring food and water Sept. 30 for two feral cats -- Sunshine and Lex --  in Iowa City. Holcomb and other volunteers care for several feral cat colonies. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

One other proposed rule of the Cedar Rapids ordinance is that anybody performing TNR must be licensed as a feral cat supervisor and have legal responsibility insurance coverage to cowl any accidents or issues brought on by the TNR actions or the TNR cats.

Feral cat managers could be required to register their title and get in touch with data with the town, in addition to present the situation of their colony. They’d even be required to register every cat within the colony, together with the cat’s bodily description, vaccination information, sterilization information and microchip data, and provides an annual report on the variety of cats of their colony, together with what number of have died and what number of new kittens there are.

Angela Brecht, a volunteer who does TNR in Cedar Rapids and who spoke throughout public remark at a Sept. 26 Metropolis Council assembly, stated she is nervous these restrictions will discourage folks from taking part.

“The common individual isn’t going to leap by means of all these hoops. They only need to repair the couple of cats that confirmed up of their yard,” Brecht stated on the assembly.

In the course of the Sept. 18 committee assembly, Kelly outlined the reasoning behind a number of the laws, together with that protecting information on what number of feral cats are within the metropolis will assist metropolis leaders know if this system is working or must be adjusted.

Kelly additionally stated the shape required to turn into a feral cat supervisor would simply be accessible in-person and on-line and have much less data to fill out than on the town’s present animal adoption utility.

“It is going to be used to contact feral cat managers when a feral cat is introduced out to the shelter that won’t have been sterilized already. We are able to see who’s TNRing within the space,” Kelly stated. “It additionally permits us to know the place these feeding stations and people colonies are, in order that means if a neighborhood member calls with concern about these cats of their space, we are able to do schooling.”

Sunshine, a feral cat of about 8 years old, waits Sept. 30 near its shelter as Amy Holcomb, board president of Johnson County Humane Society, and her daughter, Cynthia, bring food and water for the cat and its companion Lex in Iowa City. Lex is more than 10 years old. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell stated throughout the Sept. 26 council assembly that members had been scheduled to take up the ordinance at an upcoming assembly, it was pushed again so additional discussions could be held with these involved concerning the proposes guidelines.

The Humane Society’s Moore stated he’s been speaking with metropolis leaders concerning the ordinance. Whereas he understands the reasoning behind a number of the proposed laws, he hopes some — just like the ceasing of feeding and the requirement to have legal responsibility insurance coverage — could be adjusted.

“So far as I’m conscious, I don’t consider there may be any legal responsibility insurance coverage that exists for packages like this. … I perceive, I believe, what the intent of it’s, however I don’t know that it’s a practical risk, simply because I don’t suppose there are insurance coverage packages,” he stated. “I believe that this might find yourself being a superb program, however there are a few changes that I believe we want to see made earlier than we’d be totally supportive of the ordinance.”

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