Casper considers ban on feeding feral cats to cut down on euthanizations - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Casper considers ban on feeding feral cats to cut down on euthanizations


CASPER, Wyo. — The Casper City Council are considering changes to the city’s animal care and control ordinance which have been recommended by the city’s animal protection officers.

The city council began to discuss the proposed changes during their Tuesday, June 23 work session. Much of the discussion centered around a recommendation that Casper prohibit the feeding of non-domestic animals, excluding birds and squirrels.

The proposed rules would prohibit the feeding of feral cats, if the council were to adopt them. Councilman Shawn Johnson said that he thought it was problematic to make it a misdemeanor to feed feral cats and if that was included in the proposed ordinance, he would vote against it.

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He also raised a question of how it could be proved that someone was feeding a feral cat. City Attorney John Henley said that animal protection officers would investigate such a situation by interviewing neighbors about their observations if someone were suspected of intentionally feeding feral cats or other animals.

Before a citation could be issued, evidence would have to be shown that a person was indeed intentionally feeding a non-domestic animal. Johnson said that another problem he saw was that food intended for birds or squirrels could be consumed by other non-domestic animals.

Henley said that officers would likely take into account what food was put out. Johnson said that if the council wants to pass the ordinance with that aspect, they would “need to be comfortable with the fact” that someone could be ticketed or possibly taken to jail “for putting a bowl of milk out for a cat.”

Councilman Steve Cathey asked whether the ordinance was drafted to reinforce Wyoming Game and Fish Department guidelines against feeding non-domestic animals.

Henley said that the ordinance could have that effect since the city does not enforce Game and Fish laws in city limits. He said that it might apply in cases where a person is feeding corn to deer that end up getting hurt in a roadway, or cases along those lines.

Police Chief Keith McPheeters said the recommended language to include prohibitions against feeding feral cats came about as a “direct result of correspondence” the the manager of the Metro Animal Shelter.

He said that feral cats at the shelter don’t respond well to humans and often end up being determined unadoptable. Therefore, the city ends up euthanizing “a large percentage of those feral cats.”

“”Unadoptable pets end up being euthanized,” he said.

McPheeters said the proposed ban on feeding feral cats was an attempt to “reduce the number of animals that are being euthanized.” He said feral cat problems are prevalent in a number of neighborhoods around Casper.

Vice Mayor Khrystyn Lutz asked whether prohibiting people from feeding feral cats was the best way to deal with the problem, adding that “they’ll find food somewhere.” She asked whether a program to round up feral cats and sterilize them to reduce reproduction rates might be another option.

McPheeters said such an approach could be very expensive. He added that animal protection officers don’t make arrests and that they tend to issue warnings and seek compliance prior to issuing any citations. He said that would be the approach if the ordinance were to go into effect.

Councilman Bob Hopkins said feral cats can cause bad odors and “can be really nasty.” He said that raccoons can be even worse.

McPheeters said there have been cases of people intentionally feeding raccoons in Casper.

“I lived in a neighborhood that had a significant feral cat problem,” Councilman Mike Huber said, noting that feral cats can come through people’s dog doors. “That’s a real special treat.”

He said that some people in that neighborhood fed the feral cats thinking they were doing a good thing but it led to the feral cat “population just mushrooming.”

“Unless you’ve had a feral cat problem around you, you don’t know what you’re in for,” Huber said, saying he was in favor of the ban against feeding feral cats.

Councilman Ken Bates said he agreed that people should not feed feral cats. But he asked about situations which involve people who may not have the capacity to realize what they are doing is not helpful.

McPheeters responded that in such cases officers would issues warnings or deliver lectures to a person, but would not arrest them. He said officers respond to cases “3-4 times per day [involving] persons that may not be thinking correctly” and that he though there were safe guards against ticketing or arresting people in such instances.

Councilman Charlie Powell asked how the ordinance would pertain to pigeons as he was aware of people complaining about pigeons causing damage to people’s homes. Johnson pointed out that the ordinance as drafted exempts the feeding of birds from the prohibitions.

“We exempted birds for an obvious reason,” McPheeters said. He noted that a number of people living by the North Platte River feed ducks.

While animal enforcement officers don’t necessarily condone feeding ducks, McPheeters said the practice is common enough that officers weren’t recommending a ban.

“We do respond to a large volume of people feeding non-domesticated animals,” he added.

McPheeters said that includes reports of nests on roofs or rodent infestations. He added that the police department receives a number of requests for “nuisance abatement” permits.

“I personally review these requests,” he added.

When someone requests a nuisance abatement permit, which can allow people to kill non-domestic animals which are causing problems, McPheeters has a conversation with them to discuss all options. He says that includes establishing a balance between the needs of the community and the needs of the requesting individual.

Those nuisance abatement permits are issued on a case-by-case basis and specify the means by which someone can “abate” the problem. McPheeters said that can include authorizing people to use pellet guns to shoot pigeons, which he said is a request which has come from downtown business owners with pigeon problems on their roof. He said when such permits are issued, they carefully specify the direction a pellet gun can be fired and require the business owner notify dispatch before they fire the pellet gun.

In some cases where pellet guns are not feasible, McPheeters said such nuisance abatement permits may allow “lawful methods of chemical controls” or other means.

Councilman Ken Bates said he’d like to see some wording added to a section of the proposed ordinance pertaining to “aggressive” and “vicious” animals that makes it clear that a dog or pet who is attacked by another dog is not automatically considered aggressive for defending itself.

After the city council’s discussion of the proposed ordinance, they indicated that they would like city staff to work up a draft that included some of what they had discussed. They would then move forward to begin the three reading process required to enact the new ordinance.

A draft of the proposed changes is included in the council’s work packet. The recommended changes include re-working definitions aimed to protect both people and animals.

First, the term “dangerous” animal would be replaced by a definition for “aggressive” animal. Under the proposed ordinance, animals which are defined as either “vicious” or “aggressive” would be illegal to possess unless:

  • the animal is properly restrained while on an owner’s property
  • when off premises the animal would have to be caged or muzzled and restrained by a secure collar and leash not longer than 3 feet

Pets which exhibit dangerous behavior could be defined as either “aggressive” or “vicious”:

  • an aggressive animal would be any animal not on an owner’s property that
    • “has attacked a domestic animal or livestock in such a manner that resulted in physical contact between the animals not necessarily requiring medical treatment to either animal” or
    • that has “chased, approached or otherwise interacted with a human being, domestic animal or livestock in an intimidating or aggressive manner”
  • a vicious animal would be any animal:
    • that has attacked a human causing injury or death
    • which is in a place it is “not legally entitled to” and attacks a domestic animal or livestock causing injury which results in visits to a veterinarian or which causes death
    • which has previously been declared an “aggressive” animal and engages in “aggressive” behavior

In addition to changes to the rules meant to protect people and other animals from vicious or aggressive animals, the proposed ordinance changes also include changes aimed to protect animals from people.

Proposed rules aimed to protect animals from cruel treatment or unsafe conditions include:

  • changes to tethering rules:
    • animals could not be tethered for over 10 hours in a 24 hour period
    • lines must be 5 times the animal’s body length or 12 feet long (whichever is shorter)
    • tethers must not pose a risk to the animal’s safety
    • lines must not weigh more than a quarter of the animal’s body weight
    • tether must be strong enough to restrain the animal
  • requiring clean pet environments
    • “premises are free of feces and urine as to not cause offensive odors or unsanitary conditions” in an enclosure, yard or surrounding area
    • pet environment must be kept cleans so that it does not draw flies or insects which could cause illness or injury to an animal
    • environment must be free of physical hazards to the animal like broken or sharp objects
  • prohibits feeding or sheltering non-domestic animals
    • would be illegal to shelter, feed or enticing non-domestic animal onto public areas or private property (excluding use of live box traps)
    • adds definition of “feral cat” which would be illegal to feed or shelter:
      • “feral cat”: cats that live outdoors and have little to no contact with humans, don’t allow themselves to be handled or touched by humans, run away/avoid humans
    • people could still feed birds or squirrels
  • prohibiting tormenting or harassing confined/restrained animals
    • ban yelling in a harassing manner at animals
    • ban throwing objects at animals
    • ban making gestures or other behavior to elicit reactions or cause stress to animals
  • protecting animals in motor vehicles
    • would be illegal to leave animal in motor vehicle over 70 degrees (current limit is 60 degrees) or below freezing
      • unless animal control officer deems there is sufficient water, ventilation, heat, air conditioning and bedding
  • proper shelter protections
    • requires access to water, proper shelter at all times
      • unless animal protection officer deems the species and breed capable of maintaining safe body temp
    • shelter, bedding must be kept “reasonably clean”
  • grooming requirements
    • animal must be “reasonably groomed” to prevent skin irritation, damage or infection and to prevent entanglement of hazardous foreign bodies
  • safe transportation of animals
    • would be illegal to transport animals on hood, fender, running board or other external parts of a moving vehicles (excludes truck beds with a closed tailgate)

Further details of the proposed ordinance changes are included in the council’s work session work packet.

If you would like to contact members of the Casper City Council regarding this or any other issue, here is their contact information:

Mayor Steve Freel (Ward III, Term expires 1/3/23):

Vice Mayor Khrystyn Lutz (Ward I, Term expires 1/3/23):

Councilman Charlie Powell (Ward II, Term Expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Shawn Johnson (Ward II, Term expires 1/3/23):

Councilman Ken Bates (Ward II, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Steve Cathey (Ward III, Term Expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Bob Hopkins (Ward I, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Mike Huber (Ward I, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Ray Pacheco (Ward III, Term expires 1/3/23):

Council members can also be reached by mail at: 200 N. David Street, 82601

If you would like to contact members in your specific ward, but don’t know which ward you are in, a map is available at the City of Casper’s website.