Supervisors ponder whether to tackle stray cats

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 26, 2007

COURTLAND—After spending much of the past year dealing with dog issues — from licenses to kennel permits — Southampton supervisors are preparing to tangle with another four-legged problem: cats.

Felines, especially those of the stray or feral persuasion, have become the subject of a growing number of complaints in recent months, according to several members of the county’s Board of Supervisors.

Those members have asked that County Administrator Michael Johnson meet with representatives of the Sheriff’s Department to determine how widespread the problem really is.

The sheriff’s animal control officer currently does not respond to complaints about cats, unless a cat has bitten the caller, Sheriff Vernie Francis said earlier this week. No cats are kept at the county’s animal pound, which sometimes is full just from the stray dogs that have been picked up around Southampton.

Making room for cats at the pound &uot;will likely require expansion and modification,&uot; Johnson told supervisors Monday. In fact, he said, &uot;Given the age of the facility (20 years), the confined space and changes in state regulations, it may be more cost-effective to begin anew.&uot;

The board last dealt with the issue of cats more than 10 years ago, Johnson reminded those attending Monday’s monthly meeting. At the time, there was no political will to require cats to be licensed or to otherwise regulate their existence in the county.

Judging from Monday’s comments, the current board might be more willing to take steps to control the county’s cats, even if such moves prove to be costly.

&uot;I think we need to look into this,&uot; Capron District Supervisor Moses Wyche said following a brief presentation in which Johnson warned about the potential costs associated with reducing Southampton’s population of stray cats.

In addition to the likelihood of necessary modifications, renovations or new construction at the pound, he said, cat-related calls would cause an increased workload for the animal control officer, resulting in the need for additional staff.

Newsoms District Supervisor Walt Brown said he had received numerous complaints about cats being abandoned in front of constituents’ houses and suggested that the county consider requiring cats to be licensed.

Brown suggested that the possibility of needing a new animal pound should not deter supervisors from doing something about the stray cats problem. &uot;We need to look at the existing pound anyway.&uot;

Wyche agreed. &uot;Money is always going to be a problem,&uot; he said.

Assistant County Administrator Jay Randolph suggested that supervisors consider allowing the Planning Commission to consider pound updates as part of the county’s capital improvements plan, which would enable Southampton to fund the work over a period of years.

The board directed that Johnson meet with sheriff’s representatives to find out how many calls the department receives regarding stray cats.