COPPERAS COVE — A split council requested the city Animal Advisory Board draft a trap, spay, neuter and release program for feral cats Tuesday as an ordinance.
With more than 100 people in attendance Tuesday night and about 15 offering their opinions about a trap, spay, neuter program, four council members told the animal advisory committee to draft an ordinance that allowed for a one-year trial to create such a program.
Three council members were against feral cats being allowed to remain in the city limits after they were trapped.
Councilman Danny Palmer, Kenn Smith and Jim Schmitz were against releasing the animals back into the city limits by creating cat colonies typically attached to such programs.
Cheryl Meredith, Gary Kent, Mark Peterson and Mayor Pro Tem Frank Seffoord, however, were for at least trying a one-year trial.
“I don’t want these trapped and neutered cats back in the city limits,” said Palmer, who was booed by the crowd for making his comments.
One crowd member shouted “come take care of the deer” at Palmer, after someone explained the city doesn’t enforce its no feeding deer ordinance.
Smith questioned who would pay for the trial period.
“Volunteers — it is a free program,” said Peterson, noting that several residents in the audience already admitted to wanting to care for such colonies. “We have nothing to lose.”
More than 10 people spoke in favor of running a trap and release program during a public hearing held by the council with some residents from Killeen, Belton, Waco and Kempner.
“We have been doing a trap neuter return program, and it works,” said Amy Oakley, who belongs to a volunteer organization that treats cats in Waco. “It is proven at saving taxpayers’ money.”
Oakley said resident volunteers will manage cat colony populations, which would lower the city’s cost for euthanasizing stray animals. Cities also can obtain grants by running such programs.
Resident Rose Brimhall said creating cat colonies and trapping and neutering them allows for cat populations to slowly and humanely die off compared to killing them in what another speaker called “death camps” — the animal shelter.
Veterinarian Tom Kyzar spoke against allowing cat colonies and having such a program because the animals can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
Colonies can lead to a higher risk of one animal infecting another and eventually humans, he said.
Gil Eckirch, a wildlife biologist from Belton, said cats are the number one cause for killing birds and having such colonies only increases the risk of endangering wildlife in the area.
City Manager Andrea Gardner made the recommendation to the council that the animal advisory board review an ordinance the city drafted more than three years ago along with comments from previous animal advisory board members, several who quit the group because of a divide on the issue.
The animal advisory board and the city are used to such controversial issues; in recent years several residents came out to support allowing rescue groups to take animals from the city’s shelter.
“There is just as much hostility in the rescue groups issue and that has been successful,” said Gardner.