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Feral felines on the loose in Plum City

Feral cats were the topic of debate at the Plum City Village Board Meeting Monday, Feb. 5. Some community members want a solution on how to get rid of them; others want to care for, capture and spay/neuter the felines.

At the January village board meeting, Plum City Feed Mill owner Roland Eccles said area feral cats are getting into the feed mill and defecating in his product, meaning some of it is unsellable. Eccles said over the last three to four years he has had to throw out $2,000-$3,000 worth of feed because the cats have defecated in it. He said he has also gotten complaints from customers because of this.

In January, the board asked Village Clerk Michele Burg to examine ordinances other communities have in place to deal with feral cats and report back at the February board meeting.

Burg presented for a first reading amended ordinances regarding feeding of wildlife and feral animals and prohibiting animals from running at large. Discussion followed the readings about the feral cat problems in Plum City and whether feeding of these animals should be allowed. Village board trustee Leonard Dodson recommended that the ordinance still allows feral cats to be fed outside Elm Valley Veterinary Clinic (225 Main St.) so the animals could be caught. The veterinary clinic is near the Plum City Food Pantry and Eccles' feed mill.

"I know at one time, people were talking about some 30 or more cats being seen near and around the food pantry," Burg said. "I don't know if that is true anymore."

Now, Burg said she hasn't seen as many cats by the food pantry.

"I know when I go by, which I live not too far from the food pantry, I see a few cats, not like I was," Burg said. "But then again they are not being fed at food pantry anymore."

Community member Tracey Eeten (who also works at Elm Valley Veterinary Clinic) said it is easier to live trap cats when they are all in one area.

"[It] was better when [cats] used to be in one spot," Eeten said. "Now scattered all over town."

Burg said the cats have mainly been located in a few areas in the village.

"The cats were mostly located around the food pantry and back toward the sewer plant and recycling containers," Burg said.

Charles Gumbusky, a veterinarian who has practiced in Hastings, Minn., spoke up at the meeting; he is willing to spay or neuter feral cats that are caught. He said ideally he would like to catch as many cats as possible at one time and then spay/neuter them all at the same time. However, this would require many live traps but he believed he would be able to borrow some. He wanted to make sure the community understands what they are doing.

"Let the village know what's going on so they don't mess with traps," Gumbusky said.

Eeten explained that once cats are neutered they can try to find homes for those that are adoptable; the other cats would be returned to where they were caught.

Dodson said the cats should be released in same area in which they're found because otherwise they'll just make their way back anyway. He said their instinct is to go back "home."

Over time with more of the cats spayed or neutered the feral cat population would decline, as Gumbusky said this would prevent the cats from breeding.

Eeten also said once the animals are fixed they are less aggressive and won't wander as much. She said that if they can stop the cats from breeding that will help with part of the problem. She also said an issue is people dropping off cats in town. She has caught people a couple of times dumping kittens off by the food pantry, she said.

Eeten suggested putting up signs telling people not to drop off cats. Dodson said after doing some research, none of the surrounding shelters in the area will take unwanted cats from Plum City.

Gumbusky said unwanted cats being dumped is not unique to Plum City. He has heard from rural residents in other areas who get cats dropped off at their properties in the country as well.

The board agreed to allow feeding in front of the Elm Valley Veterinary Clinic for one month and asked Eeten to report back at the next village board meeting about the progress of the situation. Village Board President Doug Watkins said once Eeten reports back after a month of catching and spaying/neutering the animals, the board can decide what should be done going forward.

Gumbusky said once the animals are fixed their left ears will be notched so it can easily be seen which animals have already been caught and fixed.

Not all people in the town believe this will solve the problem. Eccles said he doesn't believe spaying/neutering will solve cats getting into the feed mill.

"It [spaying/neutering cats] ain't gonna work," Eccles said. "They are still gonna be a mess."

While live traps are being set by the vet office and other areas in town, Eccles said he doesn't want the traps set on his property because it's a liability. He doesn't want people trespassing on his property at night checking the traps.

Dodson said he has also heard rumors people had planned a "shoot a cat" day in town and wanted to address that issue. Watkins said firearms cannot be discharged within the city limits and this will not be allowed.

Dodson explained that he has had three of his cats shot in the past; the last one was shot in December.

The Village Board will look at possibly repealing, renumbering, amending and/or adopting ordinances for prohibited feeding of feral animals and wildlife, animals prohibited from running at large, and prohibited keeping certain animals and reptiles in the Village at the next Plum City Village Board meeting.

Not all community members were in agreement with the possible ordinances.

"I will not stop feeding those cats," Eeten said in response to the possible ordinance about prohibiting the feeding of feral animals and wildlife.