Casper Audubon naturalist: feral cats spread disease, spay and neuter programs ineffective - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Casper Audubon naturalist: feral cats spread disease, spay and neuter programs ineffective


CASPER, Wyo. — Zach Hutchinson is a community science coordinator for the National Audubon Society in Casper. He attended the Casper City Council’s Tuesday, Aug. 4 meeting and addressed the topic of feral cats.

The city council is considering possibly changes to the animal care and control ordinance which would include a ban on feeding most wildlife and feral cats and dogs.

A group of citizens who spoke at the council’s last meeting said that they were still working to facilitate a partnership between an the city and an outside organization to fund such a program. The group opposes the proposed feeding ban.

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Linda Terrell spoke with other members of the group standing behind her and said that the organization Alley Cat Allies, who sent a letter to the city in opposition to the proposed feeding ban, had reached out to help find solutions to create a trap, spay and neuter and release program.

She added that the group had also been in contact with Best Friends Animal Society about possibly helping with such a program. Terrell said the group needed more data from Metro about how much funding they would need before they could move forward with helping the city create a trap, spay or neuter and release program.

Hutchinson said that he had sent research for the council to consider showing that trap, spay and neuter and release programs are ineffective at solving feral cat problems.

He added that feral cats can be disease carriers, pointing to toxoplasmosis in particular.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain: “Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. While the parasite is found throughout the world, more than 40 million  people in the United States may be infected with the Toxoplasma parasite.”

“The Toxoplasma parasite can persist for long periods of time in the bodies of humans (and other animals), possibly even for a lifetime,” the CDC says. “Of those who are infected however, very few have symptoms because a healthy person’s immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness. However, pregnant women and individuals who have compromised immune systems should be cautious; for them, a Toxoplasma infection could cause serious health problems.”

Hutchinson said his concerns were about how feral cats can spread diseases to other wildlife. He said the research he emailed for the council’s consideration shows that a trap, spay or neuter and release program “doesn’t control disease outbreak and doesn’t prevent wildlife loss.”

He said that toxoplasmosis can be spread to wildlife such as deer.

Hutchinson also pointed to research which he said shows that educating and encouraging people to adopt is more effective than trap, spay or neuter and release programs. He said that one situation in which trap, spay or neuter and release programs are somewhat effective in addressing feral cat impacts on wildlife is to release feral cats only in enclosed areas.

“There is already research,” he said. “This argument has been going around and around. Removal or some sort of compromise is the best bet for native wildlife and people.”

Councilman Ken Bates said he was caught in the middle on the issue. On the one hand he said he worried about feral cat impacts on wildlife populations. However, he added:” Starving a cat I kind of struggle with.”

He said he thought a trap, spay or neuter and release program might help.

“If they can’t breed then they go away completely,” Bates said. “Though we’ll never have cats nonexistent in the world. I don’t know what the answer is between the two (the proposed feeding ban versus a trap, spay or neuter and release program).”

Councilman Shawn Johnson opposes the feeding ban and said he thought it too would be an ineffective method to addressing feral cat problems. He said that in the reading he had done, targeting feral cat’s reproduction cycles is the more effective approach.

“A feeding ban I don’t think is going to do anything,” he said.

Councilman Mike Huber said he thought a feeding ban would target reproduction. He said that “the healthier and more nourished that an animal is” the more likely it is to reproduce.

“I don’t think that any of us relish the idea of quote, ‘starving’ any animal,” Huber added. “This community does have a stray cat and probably a stray dog problem also.”

Huber said that he used to live in the South Ash Street area and that feral cats in the nieghborhood frequently came through people’s dog doors. He said that he didn’t think feral cats have high quality of life, saying that they may spend time in storm drains.

“You cannot convince me that these cats are enjoying their lifestyle,” he said. “The image of these romantic little cats like unicorns out there enjoying themselves is completely unrealistic.”

He questioned whether a trap, spay or neuter and release program would “solve any aspect of the problem.” Johnson also opposes the proposed feeding ban because he says it criminalizes the feeding of cats.

Huber argued that some people will continue to feed cats even if they are shown “all the data in the world” that this exacerbates problems.

“There are some people that just don’t get it,” he said.

Huber argued the city needs rules “with teeth” for situations in which someone refuses to comply.

Vice Mayor Khrystyn Lutz said: “Feral cats are wild animals. They are not household animals.”

She said that most people wouldn’t feed a mountain lion but that people don’t argue that people are thereby “starving” mountain lions. She said she viewed the feral cat situation similarly.

Council passed the ordinance on second reading. Johnson voted against the proposed ordinance. Prior to the vote the council amended the proposal to remove time limits for tethering dogs.

Council would need to pass the ordinance on one further reading before it would become law.

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:
    • 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 are available in the council’s 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.