Residents seek city assistance for feral, roaming cat problem
At least three Tecumseh residents approached Tecumseh City Council members at the end of the Monday, Oct. 21, council meeting, asking for city assistance in controlling cats roaming free in the community, both feral and domestic cats that owners let out on their own.
During the final public comment portion of the meeting, Michele Koniarz, who lives on Wenonah Street, told council members how a stray cat attacked her Shih Tzu at her home on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
“We were sitting on our own deck in our own yard with a baby gate up,” Koniarz said. “The black cat knocked down the gate and charged my dog.”
The dog, Gracie, was injured, but will recover, Koniarz said, although she described how Gracie is now fearful and shakes. She now takes the dog to another block to walk her.
Koniarz said part of the problem is the city has no animal-at-large ordinance or other controlling ordinance pertaining to cats, and the overpopulation problem of roaming cats in her neighborhood has reached new heights, and includes both cats owned by individuals that are free to wander the neighborhood, and feral cats in colonies that caretakers feed.
“I do not think that TNR (trap-neuter-release) is a solution because they are still roaming all over town and it’s just not acceptable anymore,” Koniarz said.
Several years ago following a number of community forums, a local nonprofit known as the Tecumseh Cat Coalition was formed to follow the TNR method. Numerous cats in the community have been spayed or neutered over the past decade and returned to their colonies, with the idea that the cats would live out their lives without reproducing.
Koniarz had also researched the issue and came armed with sample ordinances from other communities, such as one in Frankenmuth that now has a successful control measure in place.
“I’m begging our city council to protect me and my animal that was attacked,” Koniarz said. “I’m not just asking the city to deal with it, but the county as well as the state helping us to become progressive like other cities in Michigan that have dealt with this.”
She also described how she had first approached her situation by contacting Lenawee County officials, since there is an existing animal control ordinance on the books. However, Koniarz said she was hung up on and calls were not returned.
County Commissioner David Stimpson, who represents Tecumseh, said he has spoken with Lt. Jeff Ewald at the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Department regarding Koniarz’s experience, and is also looking into the situation.
“The fundamental problem is even with an ordinance, there are not places that will take the animals, even if they are trapped or picked up,” said Stimpson. He added that there would be a cost associated with coming up with an appropriate facility to take them. Stimpson said there would, however, be further discussions on the issue and it would be a topic at the county level as well.
Koniarz said that Saginaw County had enacted a millage to help form an association that would handle the cats.
Another resident on Seneca Street said Tecumseh is an amazing town, but in her 30 years here the problem has existed and gotten worse.
“Nobody wants to be the one to say anything,” she said. “We stand at the end of our driveways and complain to each other.” She added that her children wouldn’t even eat the vegetables from the garden because cats use the garden to defecate.
A Conklin Street resident said she is an animal lover, but notices numerous cardboard boxes set up for cats that aren’t really adequate for sheltering them in the winter. “They need to be out in the country in a barn,” she said.
The speakers also said they believed there should be a limit on how many cats a resident may own such as there is for dogs.
Koniarz said city officials including Police Chief Troy Stern, City Manager Kevin Welch, and Building Services Director Brad Raymond had been helpful, but hoped that the council would consider taking some action to find a solution to the problem, especially as it pertains to animals that present a danger to the community.
Mayor Richard Johnson asked that Welch come back to council with a synopsis of the current ordinance and provide suggestions as to what a next step might be.
“The women who are here made excellent presentations,” said council member Pat Housekeeper. “It would be my hope when I’m not occupying this seat, this problem gets resolved in a fair and prompt manner.”
“This isn’t a new problem,” said Tecumseh resident Bill McCauley. “I’d love to see a resolution to this problem.”
“So would we all,” said Mayor Johnson.