Le­an­der neigh­bors want city to en­force ban on catch­ing cats, fast

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO &STATE - By Ri­cardo Gán­dara

LE­AN­DER — Carmen Amaya says Le­an­der’s or­di­nance against trap­ping and re­leas­ing wild an­i­mals — in­clud­ing feral cats — needs to be en­forced but that po­lice and an­i­mal con­trol of­fi­cers keep al­low­ing peo­ple to trap cats so they can be neutered and then re­leased back into the com­mu­nity.

Amaya, a mem­ber of the city’s arts board, says she has rea­son to push for en­force­ment. Her dog, Keeper, came down with an in­fec­tion af­ter a feral cat scratched his face in April in the back­yard of their West­wood neigh­bor­hood home.

“It cost $800 in vet bills,” she said. Her 9year-old daugh­ter, Vanessa, was scratched on the arm and chest by the same cat. Amaya has pho­tos to prove it.

“I’ve been to the city, the po­lice and code en­force­ment, and all I’ve got­ten is the runaround. The same cat is still hang­ing around my house,” she said.

Feral cats cause other prob­lems, said Richard Archer, who lives in the neigh­bor­ing Ma­son Creek sub­di­vi­sion.

“They stake their ter­ri­tory and spray and defe­cate in the gar­den. They carry dis­eases. And they’re killing our song­birds,” he said.

The non­profit res­cue group Shadow Cats has been trap­ping, neu­ter­ing and vac­ci­nat­ing feral cats for some time in Le­an­der, di­rec­tor Sheila Smith said. The Round Rock-based group suc­cess­fully lob­bied that city in 2007 to change its law to al­low trap-neuter-re­turn, or TNR, and is try­ing to do the same in Le­an­der, she said. Since 2004, vol­un­teers for the group have trapped, neutered and vac­ci­nated 3,000 cats in Cen­tral Texas, Smith said. About 500 cats were adopted, and the rest were re­leased.

The prob­lem, as Amaya points out, is that it’s il­le­gal un­der Le­an­der city or­di­nance. But the or­di­nance isn’t be­ing en­forced when it comes to feral cats. Coun­cil Mem­ber Carl Wake said no one has been pros­e­cuted for break­ing the law. Po­lice Chief Don Hatcher did not re­turn phone calls seek­ing com­ment on why po­lice or an­i­mal con­trol of­fi­cers haven’t en­forced the or­di­nance.

The res­cue group vol­un­teers “have been op­er­at­ing in a shad­owy area,” Mayor John Cow­man said. “They do pro­vide a hu­mane ser­vice, but it’s also against the law.”

Smith told city of­fi­cials last month that her group was break­ing the law and that that was one of the rea­sons she was seek­ing a change in the or­di­nance. Her group is not try­ing to flout the law, she said.

In early June, the Le­an­der City Coun­cil was con­sid­er­ing a change in its an­i­mal or­di­nance to al­low TNR, but af­ter hear­ing op­po­si­tion from Amaya, Archer and oth­ers, Cow­man ap­pointed a task force that will re­port to the coun­cil in Au­gust with a rec­om­men­da­tion on the or­di­nance.

Smith said such a pro­gram won’t cost the city a dime if her group does the trap­ping. Right now, if an­i­mal con­trol of­fi­cers trap an un­wanted cat, it costs $150 to feed it and take it to the Wil­liamson County Re­gional An­i­mal Shel­ter, Hatcher told coun­cil mem­bers. Hatcher also es­ti­mated that it could cost up to $50,000 a year to monitor and staff a city-run TNR pro­gram.

Amaya said Shadow Cats’ work might help con­trol the feral cat pop­u­la­tion, but she said it doesn’t make sense that the group re­turns the cats to the neigh­bor­hood where they were trapped. Smith said it’s nor­mal to re­turn a cat to its ter­ri­tory where it feels safe.

“But our feral cat is a nui­sance. We don’t want it here,” Amaya said.

Smith said vol­un­teers have un­suc­cess­fully tried sev­eral times to trap the cat near Amaya’s house in hopes of find­ing it an adop­tive home.

While the city waits for the task force’s rec­om­men­da­tion, Smith said Tues­day that her group will cease trap­ping in Le­an­der.

“Out of re­spect for the coun­cil, we won’t be do­ing any trap­ping in Le­an­der,” she said.

Ri­cardo B. Brazz­iell Amer­i­cAn-StAteS­mAn

Some res­i­dents are up­set about feral cats. From left are Carmen Amaya; Naomi Smith, 2; Richard Archer; Vanessa Amaya, 9; Jessie Smith, ; Porsche Amaya, 1 ; and Wed­nes­day Amaya, 11.

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