GRANTS PASS – Monday’s city council workshop discussion regarding methods for controlling feral cat populations in Grants Pass resulted in direction to staff to bring forward proposed ordinance changes to place a limitation on the number of cats each household will be allowed to keep and care for within city limits. Council member Dwight Faszer referred to the proposed regulations as a “kitty cap,” and members of the council agreed that such a measure was necessary to assist with addressing the decades old problem.
Council members Valerie Lovelace and Joel King requested the effort be paired with a public education campaign about how to deal with feral cat issues, and council member Tyler Flaming requested better enforcement of existing regulations, while encouraging staff to research programs adopted by other cities.
“We’re not breaking new ground here. I guarantee someone out there is doing something,” said Flaming.
Director of Public Safety Warren Hensman delivered a report on the issue and said that it is one of complexity that also consumes a large amount of available resources. In the past, the city has forwarded recommendations to Josephine County Animal Control/Public Health to require licensing of cats, but that nothing has been put in place, he said.
There are no regulations governing roaming of cats at large, and such regulations are difficult to enforce, said Hensman. Some of the problem involves animal neglect and the hoarding of cats, which Hensman said can often involve the larger issue of mental health factors.
Hensman said his department rarely receives any complaints about feral cats. Community service officers are not equipped to manage the issue. That is where county services must play a role.
According to County Public Health Director Mike Weber, the county is not properly equipped or staffed to manage the problem. A lack of adequate infrastructure, clinic space, and no veterinarian on staff has the county looking to grants and other funding sources to offset costs. Enforcement efforts are also hampered by “non-ownership” of cats in situations where households are feeding and caring for feral cats, but will not claim responsibility for them, said Weber.
“There are literally tens of thousands of cats,” Weber said.
Support for licensing of cats is “problematic,” said Weber. “It is a challenge to get people to license their dogs,” he said.
Enforcing caps on the number of animals people can keep in their homes is also problematic with regards to privacy rights and people’s homes, said Hensman.
“We have to be delicate and respectful in how we handle these types of complaints,” he said.
Feral Cats: What you should know…
- There are estimated 70 million cats in the US.
- Approximately 40 percent live in a free roaming capacity without reproduction control.
- As many as 12 percent of US households feed free-roaming cats.
- Feral cats can be carriers of zoonotic diseases and parasites harmful to humans.
- Children ages 15 and under are more at risk of contracting diseases.
- Mitigation is possible through Trap, Neuter, and Release programs.
- (Sources: University of New Hampshire, US Center for Disease Control)
- Josephine County Spay and Neuter (exhausted funding)
- Rogue Valley Humane Society (owner pets only, no feral cats)
- Toby Fund of Wolf Creek (exhausted funding)