• September 18, 2014

Cove wrangles with feral cat laws

Some fear trapping, neutering, releasing felines will increase colonies

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Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012 4:30 am | Updated: 11:50 am, Wed Jul 16, 2014.

COPPERAS COVE — The creation of an ordinance governing how stray cats are trapped, neutered and returned to the streets may create more cat colonies and could possibly change how some residents handle the animals.

“(Cat colonies) do already exist,” said City Manager Andrea Gardner. “Might this create some new one, I am not sure, but there is that possibility.”

Letting residents talk at a public forum about a trap, neuter and return program showed the Copperas Cove City Council there already are some residents taking care of cat colonies throughout the city, Gardner said. Some of those residents already are spaying and neutering those animals.

However, according to current city laws, residents are not allowed to release stray animals from traps. Feeding at-large animals is prohibited as well.

A Copperas Cove 2010 draft ordinance created regulations for a trap, neuter and return feral cat program and called for the creation of a volunteer who could release and tend to the animals. The volunteer would sign a contract with the city.

Killeen’s rules

Killeen’s city ordinance regarding feral cats creates a similar position in which a person needs a city permit to operate a cat colony.

John Vullo, Killeen Animal Control field supervisor, said few have received the permit, but those volunteers follow all of the city’s guidelines.

Killeen colony managers must receive training, Vullo said. They also have to keep records of their cats, such as vaccinations given, and must meet a certain number of spay and neuter operations each year.

“Once a person gets this cat colony manager position, they are the type of people who want to help these animals,” Vullo said. “They get them their shots and get them spayed.”

It is hard to measure the success of Killeen’s colonies because the city has so many cats, but Vullo said the ordinance has helped lower impound and euthanasia rates.

Killeen animal control can let an at-large cat go right away if they are microchipped, which is required for animals cat managers help, he said.

Unauthorized colonies

Dr. Tom Kyzar, a veterinarian and member of the Copperas Cove Animal Advisory Board, worried creating cat colonies in the city could spread disease and create larger cat colonies.

Neither of which have been a problem in Killeen, Vullo said. Killeen’s problem is people who take care of cat colonies without the city’s permission and who fail to have the cats spayed or neutered.

“The (managed) colonies tend to seem to be the same,” Vullo said. “As long as they don’t breed, they are good to go. Once they start breeding, then their numbers start rising quickly. There are some rogue colonies where numbers have been booming” because someone is feeding them but hasn’t had them spayed or neutered.

Well-fed cats can have between five and six kittens in a litter and they can nurse while pregnant, said George Fox, with the Assisi Animal Refuge in Killeen. Texas weather also promotes better living, allowing cats to breed year-round.

“Twelve kittens once a year, and they can get pregnant at six months of age and you can see how it would add up real quick,” Fox said.

Fox said working as a rescuer he has seen people who try to tend to 150 cats in Killeen and knows of at least one couple who bought a house next to their original house so cats could live in the first home.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Copperas Cove council members asked the animal advisory board to draft an ordinance.

Gardner said board members could review the older draft and use comments made by a previous advisory board as a starting point.

“If they really want to do what is best for the city, they will get together with an open mind and come to a consistence on the board,” she said.

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