Should Hartland use TNR program to reduce feral cat problem?

Published 7:55 pm Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Animal rights advocates are suggesting the city of Hartland employ a trap, neuter and release program to reduce the city’s feral cat population.

The plan, however, is not supported by the city’s mayor, Deb Flatness.

The program, known as TNR, includes the trapping of cats, which are then brought to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered and vaccinated before being returned to the outdoors.

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The plan was reportedly suggested to Flatness by Dee Amberg of the Humane Society of Freeborn County.

“As we’ve explained many times to those who have suggested TNR, that would do nothing to abate the problem of cats using playgrounds and flower beds as litter (boxes), cats damaging people’s property, disease from feral cats, or stop the food dishes from being placed all over town, attracting other vermin,” Flatness said Thursday in an email.

Lake Mills resident and TNR advocate Patty Jo Sanderson said the program would help Hartland reduce its population of feral cats. She spoke of the role 501(c)3 organization Camp Companion plays in the process by providing spay and neutering services for feral, farm and stray companion animals.

“Camp Companion pays part of the bill,” she said. “And when you take a cat in to be fixed, they get their shots. There’s enough cat lovers out there that would make sure these animals are healthy.

“It takes love. You have to look at this from your heart. You can’t look at it with a gun.”

Tension in Hartland is evident over feral cats in the community. Resident Kim Jameson is accusing the city of improperly limiting the number of cats she can have in her home and said there are only five unfixed feral cats left in the community.

Jameson, who said she had 20 cats at her residence in early 2017, said she got rid of half her cats in the spring of that year.

Jameson, who does have feral cats in her home, said they are spayed and neutered and pose no threat to the community.

City officials and residents said Jameson has fed cats around the community, causing animals to enter. They said Jameson’s actions have caused an excessive amount of cat feces throughout the community.

Sanderson said Lake Mills faced a similar situation to Hartland, when an older man had an excessive amount of cats and was feeding them outside his property. Sanderson said 18 cats with a mother cat were found at the man’s residence. They then trapped another 10 to 12 cats and found another cat with four kittens the day of an auction.

Sanderson said her sister was a member of the Humane Society of Freeborn County and knew  Amberg.

The program began in Lake Mills about four years ago.

“We borrowed the cages, and we’d set the cages,” Sanderson said.

The cats were then sent to a Blooming Prairie veterinarian, who would then fix the cats.

Sanderson said the program began after community members questioned whether the cats were being killed.

“That’s just not something I can sleep at night over,” she said. “So my little sister and I decided we would start doing this. One night we set the traps, and the next morning, literally, there was 15 kittens born.

“The program has kind of now become a movement with us in Lake Mills.”

Sanderson said she started enacting the program in her neighborhood about two years ago, “and that has really cut down on our population.”

“There’s people that want to do this — they just don’t know where to start, and it’s just so overwhelming,” she said. 

Sanderson said she now allows people to borrow her traps.

“If you start fixing them, they don’t multiply,” she said.

“If you rid the town of cats, then you have a bunny problem. Cats do serve a purpose.”

Sanderson said there are no drawbacks to the program.

“Once you get it going and get enough of the cats fixed, then the neighborhood kind of spots the ones that wander in and you can get those taken care of,” he said.

“There’s people out there who want to help. They just can’t do it all themselves.” 

In Hartland, the city has filed a lawsuit against Jameson for not following the agreement. A hearing is scheduled Monday for summary judgment against Jameson for violating the agreement.

Jameson said she did not follow the agreement because fence requirements were established after the agreement was reached and the city refused her fence request and did not follow through on her allowing to have 10 cats.

The city contended it refused her request for a four-foot chain link fence because it would not have kept feral cats in her yard. It alleged Jameson violated the agreement by continuing to feed cats throughout the community.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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