The city and the humane society entered into an agreement to trap, neuter and release the cats in January 2012 in an effort to control their population. Designated caretakers were allowed to feed the cats and provide water. As of Tuesday evening, however, the cats had been without food and water for seven days because of a directive from city staff to stop the feeding.
Councilor Mary Fischer voiced her disgust.
“I think this is the ultimate in cruelty,” she said. “Shame on us.”
The Municipal Operations Center is located adjacent to the site of the planned regional animal shelter, a fact Fischer found to be the ultimate irony.
“I hope we will determine what is in the best interest of the animals,” she said. “The city really needs to come up with a plan. We have not been as progressive as other communities.”
Assistant City Manager Bob Campbell agreed to allow the cats to be fed while a long-term solution is negotiated.
Humane society board members sent a letter to Mayor Tommy Roberts and members of the City Council on Oct. 3 stating that the society's Trap, Neuter and Release program had entered into a verbal agreement with the city regarding the care of the feral cat colony. They asked for an explanation as to why the feeding was ordered to stop.
“One would think that the (Municipal Operations Center) would understand with the new shelter being constructed next door and the Nature Center being in close proximity, all types of animals ... will be in the vicinity now and for many years to come,” the letter said.
Red Apple Transit drivers employed by First Transit fed the cats, but were ordered to stop after the city received complaints of skunks and fecal matter.
“The city has a skunk problem, so they want to kill some cats,” said bus driver Steve Moots.
The cats allegedly violate Municipal Code Section 6-1-4 (7) b, which states that it is illegal to, “own, harbor or maintain an animal that is a nuisance.” The ordinance lists animals that habitually prowl around, on or through premises that do not belong to its owner as nuisances.
“The colony has been there for years, and we've been feeding them for years,” Moots said. “We want to be left alone to take care of the cats. They're dependent on us.”
The colony originally numbered around 22 to 25 cats according to the best estimates, said humane society board member Traci Fletcher. It now numbers about eight after the city euthanized 11. The exact colony population, however, is not known.
San Juan Animal League is working with the Humane Society of the Four Corners to assist in the situation. City administrators and Mayor Roberts are working with humane society board members to determine how best to control the colony's population in a humane manner.