Group working to create Casper spay and neuter program oppose feral cat feeding ban - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Group working to create Casper spay and neuter program oppose feral cat feeding ban

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CASPER, Wyo. — A group of citizens attended the Casper City Council’s Tuesday, July 21 meeting and asked the council to table their consideration of proposed changes to the city’s animal care and control ordinance.

Linda Terrell spoke on behalf of the group and said that they were working with the city and other organizations with the hopes of establishing a trap, spay or neuter and release program to deal with the city’s feral cat populations.

The proposed ordinance changes include a ban on the feeding of feral cats and dogs and other wildlife.

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“We do oppose the ban on feeding feral cats,” Terrell said “That’s a pretty complicated issue I think.”

The group asked that the council hold off on their consideration of the feeding ban to give them time to explore the possible partnership to create the trap, spay and neuter and release program.

Police Chief Keith McPheeters said during the council’s July 14 work session that the Casper Police Department and Metro Animal Services see a trap, spay or neuter and release program as an effective tool to address feral cat populations.

However, he noted that such a program could come with considerable cost to the city. He said that in 2019, Metro captured 941 cats and that the “vast majority of those were feral cats.” McPheeters said that a large percentage of the feral cats were ultimately euthanized.

If all of the feral cats had been spayed or neutered, McPheeters said it would have cost about $90,000 in veterinarian bills, not to mention the added cost of caring for the cats while they heal from the procedures.

McPheeters said that both a ban on feeding feral cats and a trap, spay or neuter and release program would be effective. He noted that the City of Cheyenne partners with an outside organization to help fund a trap, spay or neuter and release program.

Wyoming Game & Fish Department Casper Regional Wildlife Management Coordinator Justin Binfet also attended the meeting and said the the department supports the Casper PD and Metro’s efforts to address the feral cat problem.

“We support getting some kind of handle on the feral cat issue,” Binfet said. “Feral cats are of increasing concern across the country and frankly across the world.”

Binfet said that feral cats kill large numbers of birds and threaten some endangered species.

Councilman Ken Bates asked Binfet whether a feeding ban could potentially lead feral cats to consume larger numbers of wildlife such as animals, rabbits, birds and squirrels.

“Is that a concern that we need to be aware of before we keep moving forward with this?” he asked.

Binfet said that was potentially a concern but that Game & Fish do not have extensive data about feral cat populations in the area. He noted that feral cats tend to be “nocturnal and elusive and solitary in most cases.”

He said that Game & Fish “takes any matter of invasive species very seriously,” noting that invasive fish and cheat grass disrupt native wildlife and plant species. Binfet noted that feral cats can disrupt the food chain for native wildlife.

Councilman Shawn Johnson reiterated opposition to a ban on feeding feral cats during the meeting.

“I just want to stand by my oppostiion to the ban of feeding feral cats,” he said. “I think there are other ways we can look at [addressing the feral cat problem.”

Johnson said that he thought “criminalizing” the feeding of feral cats was the wrong approach and that criminalizing behaviors is too often an approach to addressing problems in general.

Johnson was the only member of council to vote against the proposed animal care and control ordinance changes on Tuesday. Vice Mayor Khrystyn Lutz was not in attendance.

Council decided not to table their consideration, with Councilman Ray Pacheco and Council Mike Huber noting that there were two further readings necessary before the changes could become law.

But the council told the group of citizens that if they had further updates about the potential partnership to create a trap, spay or neuter and release program that they would like to hear about those.

The proposed ordinance contemplates a number of revisions to the current animal care and control ordinance. Among those proposed changes are the following:

  • 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)
    • includes feral cats, dogs and wild turkeys
    • exception for birds and squirrels
  • changes to tethering rules:
    • animals could not be tethered for over 10 hours in a 24 hour period
    • lines must be 3 times the animal’s body length or 8 feet long (whichever is longer)
    • 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
  • 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)
  • provisions regarding animal attacks
    • attack would be defined as aggressive action against another person or animal
    • if the attack occurs as a response to aggressive or violent action from a person or other animal when a pet is not on its owners property, the proposed ordinance states that this should be considered a mitigating factor by the court

Other changes include new definitions. 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

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