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Copperas Cove

Copperas Cove to fly in feral cat expert

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By Natasha Chen

COPPERAS COVE – In June, the city manager is flying in an animal expert from Minnesota, to help Copperas Cove form a successful trap, neuter and release program to curb its feral cat population.

The city has had a problem with an out-of-control cat population, and it's caused passionate debates among residents about how to deal with the issue.

Property owners raised concerns about those cats damaging flower beds and vehicles, while others advocating for the health and safety of the animals emphasized a humane program to limit population.

"[Property owners] just don't want their property to be damaged. And I think anybody can understand that and appreciate that," said Andrea Gardner, city manager of Copperas Cove.

But Gardner also acknowledged the need for a solution that appeals to all.

"The council had requested that I bring something forward to them that would help with the particular problems that we were encountering, and to try to settle, I guess you could say, the differences between the property owners and the individuals that had concerns over the animals' health and safety."

Gardner did some research online and found a successful program in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the city partnered with Animal Ark Shelter to significantly reduce the feral cat population.

The executive director of Animal Ark, Mike Fry, also co-hosts a nationally syndicated radio show called "Animal Wise."

"When you find those hot spots of cats, you need a very aggressive program to ensure that at least 70 percent of all the cats are sterilized within one breeding cycle. So it requires a fairly aggressive approach," said Fry.

One of those "hot spots" is the city's South Park, where an unknown number of cats roam the brush.

"I do have a sense that it's bad," said Fry. "Because typically when communities get to this point, they've experienced a severe problem. So I mean, the automatic assumption is that there are a lot of cats."

Fry said in a small town there can be thousands. In Killeen, where the city council passed a feral cat ordinance in late 2009, the animal control manager said that there were 10,000 feral cats roaming the downtown area.

Copperas Cove is also battling a previous track record of their animal control center euthanising a high number of dogs and cats, totaling more than 1,100 euthanisations in just 2009.

"The historical approaches that animal shelters and animal control organizations have taken over the years have been very ineffective at reducing the population," Fry said.

Gardner said she looked to other cities' ordinances for guidance when drafting one for Cove, in addition to relying on Fry's expertise.

"I felt like Killeen's ordinance was very lengthy, and I wasn't certain that that was the best type of ordinance for the city of Copperas Cove, starting out. Since we've never had a feral cat ordinance, I wanted to be a little more simplistic with it," she said.

At Tuesday's meeting, council members reacted positively to the draft, which includes a maximum $200 fine for people who feed feral cats.

When Fry comes to visit Copperas Cove on June 22, Gardner hopes his educational presentation to the public will help make the program a success.

Since Fry consults at no cost, the city will just be paying for his airfare, which will be under $500 and coming from a miscellaneous fund already appropriated for these purposes.

 

 

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