Feral Cat Problem At Douglas Estates Should Be Addressed By Ordinance, Say Officials
At Monday’s meeting Douglas City Council officials told a packed crowd at city hall they will zero in on the city’s ordinance and attempt to solve the ongoing problem of feral cats at Douglas Estates by means of legal administration.
Douglas Estates residents and city officials alike think the issue is intractable, including supporters of the nonprofit ‘A Feral Haven’ and those who oppose the feeding of the cats outright.
There is also acknowledgement the problem has existed for many years and persists elsewhere throughout the city, though it is prevalent at Douglas Estates which has two colonies totaling 20 feral cats.
“It’s a Catch-22 for the property owner,” Donald Veenhoven, Douglas Estates property manager, told the council. “If we kill ‘em, we got people that are going to be angry. If we keep ‘em, we got people that are going to be angry.”
Veenhoven said he and Douglas Estates owner Nathan Leader have talked about finding a solution and Leader fully supports the work that A Feral Haven has been doing until now.
Volunteer caretakers and Douglas Estates’ residents Peggy Johnson and Milo Rizzo assured the Douglas council the feral population has gone down from about 50 to 20 since they initiated A Feral Haven’s approach—trap, neuter and release—in 2015.
“If we see one without a nick on his ear (nicked ear signifies the cat has been neutered or spayed), we’ll catch it,” said Johnson.
Johnson said they make sure to only feed those cats that have been neutered and Veenhoven said residents that feed cats known to be outside the A Feral Haven program do get cited for violating Douglas Estates’ regulations.
Still, there are some longtime residents of the mobile home community that contend the problem has gotten worse since people started feeding the cats—there are more cats and some are even being born under homes. The solution, they claim, is to stop feeding what essentially are wild animals.
Resident Max Brown says that is the only thing he opposes about the Feral Haven program.
“Skunks have become profuse in the evening because they know there is food,” he said, echoing others’ statements.
In contrast, caretakers said cats are fed minimally and only once a day for a few hours in the evening and food is put away afterwards.
Donald Schirmer, who buys mobile homes and renovates them, including one at Douglas Estates, says the stench feral cats produce is a big problem as well as the cat waste on the lawns.
“Does Feral Haven want to pay for the clean up? Do they want to pay for the destruction they do underneath homes (i.e., mobile home skirting panels)?” asked Schirmer.
Council gave mixed responses to public statements.
“I am going on the fence on this…I don’t want to see cats killed,” said Douglas Council Member Neal Seabert, a resident of Douglas Estates himself. “I’ve had deer, skunks, raccoons in my yard; it’s just the nature of where we live.”
Douglas Council Member Patricia Lion thinks a “legal solution” is the best approach.
“As soon as I know that (what city ordinances says about cats), I could make a better decision (on a specific solution).”
Without being specific, Douglas Mayor Jim Wiley said, “I looked at it (the city ordinance), it is clearly in violation of our ordinance.”
The council directed staff to focus on the rules on the books so as to look for ways to address the problem.