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Groups offer solutions to St. Albans feral cat problem

By By Matthew Hill
For the Gazette

Representatives of two organizations addressed St. Albans City Council Monday evening with solutions to a problem that even Mayor Dick Callaway conceded may not have an ideal solution — a runaway population of feral cats.

The issue came to an emotional boil at council’s June 16 meeting. Chelsea Staley, executive director of the Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association, sought to provide some answers Monday to a vocally skeptical public. Staley went so far as to offer free cat repellents to any Parkview area residents in attendance.

One item activates a property owner’s sprinkler system at opportune moments, thus chasing away the unwanted cats. Another is a product called CatStop, which operates on a nine-volt battery and emits an ultrasonic noise for 300 square feet that only cats hear, she said.

Staley said animal shelter also rents traps for a $50 fee, which is refunded when the trap is returned.

Many in attendance openly wished for the cats to be eradicated completely. Both Staley and Josh Kent, representing an organization called Feral Paws that works with the Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association, cautioned against that.

Nature abhors a vacuum, Kent said adding that ridding the city of all of its feral felines would simply open up the area for all surrounding cats.

He stated that cats are highly territorial and, contrary to public sentiment, keeping a few feral cats around — spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies — is actually better than having none at all.

The strategy is known by the acronym T&R, said Kent — Trapment and Return. He and Staley described the process whereby the animal shelter comes into possession of a feral or stray cat, creates a profile for it that is shared with Feral Paws, and then spays or neuters it and vaccinates it against rabies.

Within a 72-hour goal, Staley added, the shelter tries to do all of this and release the cat back to its area of origin, thus preventing future generations of cats and creating a territorial barrier against outsiders or newcomers.

Those cats that are released have one of their ears clipped, noted Kent, indicating that it has received a rabies shot and can no longer reproduce.

The animal shelter processes 4,000 cats each year, and a large percentage are feral, Staley explained.

Charleston was one of five cities that was awarded a grant from an organization called Alley Cat Allies, which advocates the T&R approach, Staley said.

Robert Keiffer of Ward 1, Cheryl Thomas of Ward 4 and Kevin Pennington of Ward 8 were not present for Monday’s meeting.

In other business, council members held the first of two public hearings prior to an upcoming vote to authorize the city to submit its Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program Plan to the Municipal Home Rule Board. Attorney John Stump fielded questions from council members at the hearing, which took place before the start of Monday’s meeting. The hearing was not listed on the meeting agenda but had been announced in the newspaper. The second public hearing will occur at 7:15 p.m. on July 21.

Council tabled an ordinance that would repeal the Property Board until a committee could be assembled to discuss the matter.

Callaway successfully moved to have a Housing Consortium Agreement that the city signs each year referred to the Ordinance Committee.

Council members agreed to seek sealed bids for a storage building and garage to be located behind the police and fire stations.

St. Albans City Council will meet again at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, July 21.

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