Lewis Griswold

Lemoore tackles feral cat issue, backs away from feeding ban

Tammy Perez, second from left, made her final payment on her Habitat for Humanity home. Founding board members Bill Decker, right, and Joan Marschall, left, join retired executive director Betsy Murphy, in congratulating her.
Tammy Perez, second from left, made her final payment on her Habitat for Humanity home. Founding board members Bill Decker, right, and Joan Marschall, left, join retired executive director Betsy Murphy, in congratulating her. Special to The Bee

About a year ago, Pam Brasil, executive director of Animal Haven in Lemoore, was doing errands when she saw a woman get out of her car holding a bag of cat food and pans.

“Cats literally came from everywhere,” Brasil said. “They all ate and she picked up her pans and left.”

They were feral cats – cats born wild that hunt rodents and get by on handouts and scavenging, or stray or abandoned cats that have gone wild to survive.

It’s a stretch to say feral cats have overtaken Lemoore, but there have been enough complaints that the city is considering what to do about them.

But banning people from feeding feral cats will evidently not be one of the options.

The Lemoore City Council held a study session about feral cats last week and backed away from that proposal.

“The sticking point for me is to cite someone for feeding a feral cat,” Council Member Ray Madrigal said Wednesday.

Council Member Billy Siegel said he feels the same way.

“I’ll never vote to fine someone for feeding a cat,” he said.

Animal experts say the city should move in a different direction.

“Blanket feeding bans generally don’t work,” said Cassie Heffington, animal services manager for Kings County.

What works is a program called trap, neuter and return, or TNR, she said.

“TNR – that’s been proven many times,” she said.

The idea is to trap feral cats, get them spayed or neutered, then put them back where they came from.

“If you can saturate the area with spayed and neutered cats, the population will stabilize and decrease over time,” she said.

Some communities – including Wake County, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and Delaware City, Delaware – have cat colony-control ordinances that could serve as a model, she said.

Although there’s a cost – $25 per animal is a standard subsidized low-cost spay-neuter rate – it’s far less than euthanization, said Brooke Rapozo, adoption coordinator at Kings SPCA.

The city could apply for grants from private organizations for spaying and neutering, advocates said.

After taking public comment, Mayor Lois Wynne asked city staff members to come back with options. It remains to be seen if trap, neuter and return will be one of them.

Karleen Good of Lemoore, who has cared for many cats over the years, favors trap, neuter and return.

“Any time animals are breeding uncontrolled and animals are getting sick, I think it’s a problem,” she said.

MILESTONE: Tammy Perez of Visalia reached a milestone last week by making the final payment on her Habitat for Humanity home after 22 years.

Perez is the first person Habitat for Humanity of Tulare/Kings Counties (formerly Habitat for Humanity of Visalia) accepted for a volunteer-built home.

She moved in Dec. 3, 1995.

When she came to the Habitat office to make her monthly payment, she told Deanna Saldana, resource development director, that it was her last one.

“We were bawling and hugging,” Saldana said. “It’s an emotional moment.”

Perez raised her four children in the home and plans to stay.

“I will never sell my home,” she said. “It’s mine.”

Lewis Griswold covers the news of the South Valley for The Fresno Bee: 559-441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com, @fb_LewGriswold

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