City delays decision on feral cat vouchers
Nisa Sutton was just asking that those who trap a feral cat have a choice on how to use the voucher from the city: pay the fee to turn the cat over to the Humane Society where it likely will be euthanized or put the money toward sterilizing the animal.
Sutton is a representative of Feline Friends, which has spayed or neutered 1,500 cats over the past three years and works with trap, neuter, release groups that manage 120 feral cat colonies at schools, businesses, restaurants, hotels and residences.
Her suggestion was taken up by the Yuma City Council during its work session Tuesday, reopening the debate over the city's explosive feral cat population that led to the city amending its animal control ordinance last year and taking on animal control services effective Jan. 1.
The city's feral cat population is now estimated to be 30,000 to 45,000, although there's no way of knowing the exact number, Brant Hanson, management analyst for the city, told the council.
But he does believe the animal control program put in place by the city has started to make a difference in the 10 months since it was began.
He said a strong foundation is being established to address the basics, one that the city can build on in the future. And it's re-energizing the community through its Feral Cat Trap and Voucher Program that allows Yuma residents to check out a cat trap at no charge and receive a $20 voucher to take the trapped cat to the Humane Society, which charges to bring them in.
“Some residents were frustrated with feral cats but had no recourse but to pay the fee out of their pocket,” said City Administrator Greg Wilkinson. “The voucher program has empowered residents to help themselves.”
If people would rather participate in a trap, neuter, release program, that's certainly an option, Hanson said. But there are some concerns about using city taxpayer dollars to help fund that activity.
For one, it raises the potential issue of taxpayer funds being responsible for sterilizing all cats, not just feral animals, he said. Another is fear that cats will be reabandoned to the streets, raising a moral dilemma as well posing a threat to wildlife. And, it raises liability issues for the city and participating organizations of any property damage the released cats may cause.
Mayor Al Krieger concluded that both euthanization and trap, neuter, release programs accomplish the same goal of reducing the feral cat population. “It's just a difference of time.”
The next step, he said, should be the creation of a board or commission of the various stakeholders in the feral cat issue. It would meet a few times a year to review the city's ordinance, cost of the program, goals and recommendations for future steps to take.
Noting that there's no urgency and that Sutton is the only one to bring her suggestion to the council, Krieger instructed city staff to establish some criteria for such a commission and bring it to the council after the first of the year for action.