Council reviews cat issues, potential sidewalks grant
Tecumseh City Council members reviewed a report Monday night, Dec. 2, during a Study Session that City Manager Kevin Welch had prepared on roaming cats in the community. Council members had asked for a report after a city resident addressed council in October regarding how a cat attacked her small dog in her presence on her property on Wenonah Street.
The report described some alternatives being utilized in other communities and how Tecumseh does not have an ordinance that applies to cats.
“The only exception is if someone is breeding cats they have to have a kennel,” Welch said, adding that there is an ordinance relative to dogs, limiting them to three per owner, and that they are required to be licensed. He said that state laws are enforced relative to dangerous animals. The county does have an ordinance about animals not being allowed to run loose.
Welch said there is disagreement, even among professionals such as veterinarians, as to the Trap-Neuter-Return approach. “I’m certainly not an expert,” he said, “and I have no intentions of debating the issue.” He said a key aspect of putting together any type of ordinance would be enforcement, and the fact that there is no place to take feral cats unless they are adoptable complicates enforcement. Some communities provide traps for residents to use to relocate cats.
“My concern with that would be the possibility of someone improperly relocating or disposing of someone else’s pet,” Welch said, adding there could be liability to that if the city were to provide the cages. He said the other primary consideration is monetary resources. “Anything we would do we’d have to look at from a financial point of view, and I just don’t see our budget allowing for that. We still have staffing situations in the city that aren’t ideal; we have our fire chief working 24/7 and he’s done a remarkable honorable job. We also pulled a police officer out of OMNI a few years ago and I’m sure they would love to have us participate again. We’re also struggling to have enough resources for roads. I understand the cat issue is a priority for some, and it’s not that we don’t sympathize with them, but the city has to look at things from a cost standpoint.”
He told the council, “Any decision we make has to be practical, effective and reasonable, something we can actually do.”
Police Chief Troy Stern said the reason the county became involved in the dog attack situation was because the police determined it was a potentially dangerous situation for domestic animals and potentially humans.
“They were seeking that particular animal, not seeking to take care of the cat colony in that area and we believe that cat was identified and taken away,” he said. “This was the one and only time in my career here that the county got involved and that was because of the special circumstances.”
Michele Koniarz, whose dog was attacked, addressed the council. “I urge the council, having been through this, to adopt an ordinance,” she said, asking the council to do some personal research and be proactive before the situation becomes more dangerous. “My belief is no animal should be at large and those putting up houses and feeding them should become the responsible owner.” Noting her career in the arts, she offered her services for public service announcements to get the word out that cats should be brought indoors and not left to wander.
Dr. Lisa Kutchins, from Countryside Veterinary Clinic in Clinton, also spoke to the council, stating that she had been helping to care for Tecumseh’s feral cat population for 30 years. She said there had been misstatements made regarding diseases and how cats spread them, and said more information would be available through Michigan State University’s Veterinary Clinic. She added that there have been no cases of rabies in Lenawee County or surrounding counties, and added that many of the cats in question have been vaccinated and spayed and neutered.
Dr. Kutchins urged that the council get accurate information, not just through someone researching on the Internet. “Otherwise, we’re going to be having these fights again and again.”
She suggested that if someone wants to help, donations could be made to the Lenawee County Humane Society, where she has done pro bono work for several years, or individuals could step up to adopt a pet. “Some of these cats are friendly and can be placed in homes,” she said. “But everybody is fooling themselves if they think they can get rid of every feral cat in this town. It hasn’t happened anywhere.”
Welch said the council is currently digesting the information presented, and he’s not sure what the next step, if any, might be. “But with anything the city entered into, we would first want to explore costs, implementation and how things would be done before making any decisions.”
During the study session the council also reviewed the possibility of applying for a Safer Routes to School Grant with the Tecumseh Public Schools. The grant is an opportunity to assist in the replacement and installation of sidewalks that are near elementary and middle schools. The grant would not pay for all sidewalk installation or repairs. The grant is for a maximum of $200,000 per school zone, with Tecumseh having four possible zones. The benefit of participation would be not having to create a special sidewalk assessment district. However, the construction would be to Michigan Department of Transportation Standards, and require engineering work funded by the city, at an estimated $50,000.
Following the discussion, there was a consensus by council to consider the matter as part of the 2014 Capital Improvement Project budget, to be reviewed in the spring.