Wildcat colonies in Mt. Pleasant received a reprieve earlier this week when city commissioners rejected changes to an animal ordinance after hearing from the director of an animal welfare group.
City commissioners tabled approval of changes to the Animal Ordinance to allow city officials to work with community partners to reduce wildcat populations in some neighborhoods.
City commissioners appeared ready to approve changes to the current animal ordinance that would allow feral cats and dogs to be brought to the shelter and change after seven days if not claimed, and allow for the confiscation of abused or neglected animals.
If approved, the changes also include a limit of three dogs or cats per household with exceptions for veterinary clinics, the animal shelter, pet stores and for breeding purposes.
Amanda Tillotson, executive director of the Humane Animal Treatment Society, wrote a long email to the commissioners stating that they thought there was no point in eliminating the stray cat population and called on them to continue allowing HATS to be homeless catch, neuter or neuter and vaccinate cats.
At a regular meeting on June 14th, the commissioners held a public hearing to amend the current ordinance to give city staff more enforcement options if there was a health or safety issue related to unpossessed or abandoned dogs Cats there.
Reading Tillotson’s email, City Manager Nancy Ridley stopped at the five-minute mark – the deadline for public comments – before Tillotson spoke directly to the commissioners during the virtual meeting.
Commissioner Lori Gillis declined to give Tillotson the floor after Ridley read her email for five minutes, noting that her public comment had already been read and instead suggested limiting her comment to two minutes .
Tillotson informed the commissioners that she would like to discuss the wildcat overpopulation problem more and that the regulation includes HATS but the agency has not been consulted on the proposed change.
After Commissioner Mary Alsager suggested that the complaint be filed in order to have more time to discuss the problem with HATS officials, Commissioner Petro Tolas suggested that the amendments be continued as they are “well overdue”.
Gillis, who worked as a meter reader for the city, wanted to move forward too, noticing that she lives in a neighborhood with feral cats, including 15 who tore up sand for trash, got into garages, and used boats as scratching posts last year. She said the cats are not doing well and that some people are making the problem worse by feeding the animals.
“I can tell you from previous experience … there are different colonies in certain parts of the city, but they are not in other parts of the city.” She said. “I am an animal lover and it hurts to see them limp or with one eye. It is very disturbing … to see these cats are not cared for and are breeding and damaging their property. with one eye … limping … breeding and also damaging to property.
“This regulation is nothing more than holding people responsible for those who feed these wild animals.
Staff have worked hard on the changes, Gillis said, and that code enforcement will work with residents to enforce the ordinance.
Commissioner George Ronan said he was not an expert, but it would be wise to listen to experts and possibly delay action so city officials can work with HATS to continue to alleviate the problem.
An apparently excited Tolas brought up the question of approving the changes, saying he didn’t waste time discussing feral cats when the city had other important business, but she died of a lack of support.
Tolas also said he knows a resident who looks after no fewer than 30 feral cats.
Berg’s pleasant assistant fire chief, Doug Lobsinger, who is responsible for enforcement, wrote a memo to Police Chief Paul Lauria saying there have been additional complaints related to wild cats and that enforcement with HATS and Isabella County Animal Control for a. Have worked together for years, with limited success in catching, neutering and vaccinating the animals.
Lobsinger said some residents were not cooperative in enforcing the law, fed the animals and told officials they owned the cats regardless of any problems they caused to others in the neighborhood.
“It is an attempt to strike a balance by providing employees with the tools to address the quality of life concerns raised by stray cats and to treat them humanely,” Lobsinger wrote. “We believe this amendment to the regulation creates that balance.”
Changes in the regulation will not allow the cats to be euthanized except in cases where a licensed veterinarian deems it necessary, Lobsinger said.
Tillotson said well-run wildcat colonies pose no health risk if the animals are vaccinated, but Gillis claimed that there are more than a few stray cats and that there isn’t “a lot of meat” in the original regulation.
Tillotson also said there will be a vacuum effect, meaning the population will initially decline but eventually other wildcats will move to areas where they have been removed and repopulate the colonies.
Thanking Tillotson, Commissioner Olivia Cyman said HATS was included in the amendment to provide a resource, but if HATS officials disagree with the change, city officials should listen.
Finding, catching, and adopting wild cats can be difficult, Cyman said, praising HATS, but noted that she is concerned that HATS cannot find a home for the number of wild cats in different neighborhoods.