Proposed ordinance contains 'claws'

ALAMOSA—Alamosa city council may literally be trying to herd cats with a proposed ordinance amendment coming before the council for public hearing and action on Wednesday.

The city will be make provisions for the first time in its animal control ordinance for feral cats. Working with volunteers, the city would introduce a spay, neuter and return program for feral cats.

Trap, Neuter & Return (TNR) means feral cats would be humanely trapped, sterilized, vaccinated, ear-tipped, and then returned to the location where they were originally trapped. Those feeding stray or feral cats would have to participate in a TNR program designed to ultimately reduce the population of feral cats in the city, and those wishing to sponsor a TNR program would have to apply to the Alamosa Police Department, which would have discretion to approve or deny applications.

TNR sponsors would have to register feral cat colonies they are managing and provide information to the police department regarding the location of the cat colonies, the number of cats in the colonies and the number of caretakers managing the colonies.

The sponsors would keep records of the feral cats that had been vaccinated, spayed and neutered and provide an annual report to the city police department. The cats would be ear tipped to identify which ones have already been spayed and neutered. The tip of the left ear would be cut off while the cat was under anesthetic.

TNR sponsors would also include in their annual reports the number of kittens born in each feral cat colony and take reasonable steps to remove the kittens after they have been weaned and place them in foster homes and subsequent permanent homes. Mother cats would then be trapped and spayed to prevent further litters.

The ordinance would also add a provision permitting the city to impound stray cats, which is not currently included in the animal control ordinance. The ordinance would provide for impounding and disposing of feral cats that had become a nuisance to neighbors or were causing health problems.

The ordinance changes are in response to complaints the city staff has received concerning feral cats and feral cat colonies in the city.

“Beyond volunteer efforts, there has not been an organized approach for managing the cat population,” the ordinance states.

The ordinance defines feral cat as “a free-roaming cat that is partially socialized or unsocialized to humans and tends to resist contact with humans.”

In addition to dealing with cats, the ordinance proposed for public hearing and action during the city’s March 15th meeting:

  • Allows for pets to be buried in owners’ yards as long as all parts of the dead animal are covered by at least four feet of earth.
  • Prohibits the keeping of baby wild animals as pets.
  • Adds a provision about unclaimed animals that if the city does not have access to facilities to house the animal, and no owner can reasonably be identified, the city shall have the option to dispose of the animal in whatever manner deemed appropriate, including destroying the animal in a humane manner.

City councilors thanked staff for developing the ordinance amendment related to cats.

Councilor Kristina Daniel said she appreciated how the staff worked to treat animals with respect and also keep community needs in mind.

Councilor Charles Griego added, “This is a start … I think it will help a lot of people that are having problems with these cats.”

The city council will hold a public hearing during its 7 p.m. meeting on Wednesday, March 15, regarding the ordinance.