City Animal Care & Control Commission members Elissa Linger and Robin Keough at the commission's Oct. 10 meeting. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

City resident tells Animal Care & Control Commission that congregating cats are a problem — and not just at the Riverwalk

BUCKHANNON – A concerned community member asked the City of Buckhannon’s Animal Care and Control Commission to do something about a large congregation of cats near his home.

The community member, who asked that his name be omitted from this article, attended the Oct. 10 Animal Care and Control Commission meeting to discuss a large group of cats gathering near a vacant house on Pocahontas Street near his home. He told the commission he has previously humanely trapped around 16 cats, but the problem persists, with the cats using his garden as a litter box.

He also noted that several of the cats he has trapped belong to neighbors who let their own cats roam outside, which is not allowed in the city.

“I’m sorry for what you’re going through; I have cats – six cats – and my cats do not go outside,” commission member Elissa Linger said. “The problem is there are a lot of people who love cats that will not listen to the argument that it’s better for the cats to be kept indoors.”

“Indoor cats lead a healthier life, they live a longer life and on top of that, they don’t annoy the neighbors,” she added. “I understand what you’re going through because maybe 15 years ago, there was a house two doors up from mine that [had become] rundown, and we ended up with 45 to 50 cats, so the cat trapper was kept very busy.”

Linger said it should be easy to connect the resident with the city’s new cat trapper, John Slaughter. The city has contracted Slaughter, who is employed as the humane/animal control officer for Upshur County, to trap cats within Buckhannon city limits.

The community member said he had already been in touch with Slaughter, who is scheduled to set out some traps soon, but he wanted the commission to be aware of the situation. Commission member Robin Keough said the Lewis-Upshur Animal Control Center always seems to have too many cats.

“They will probably say the pound is full of cats, but that’s not your problem,” Keough said. “I understand your problem – you need those cats picked up, and once they get to the pound, that is their problem [to handle]. We have a couple of really good staff up there that are rehoming the cats, and they’re getting them fixed. If they’re feral, or if they’re sick, they might have to get put down, but it needs to be addressed.”

Mayor Robbie Skinner agreed these large groups of outdoor cats are unhealthy for everyone, including the cats themselves.

“When you have that many, they start to inbreed, and it becomes an unhealthy environment there,” Skinner said. “People are also not supposed to be feeding any animals of any kind in city limits.”

Linger asked City Director of Finance and Administration Amberle Jenkins if there are any repercussions for people living in city limits who allow their cats outside. Jenkins said typically, only if the cat winds up at the animal control facility and its owner comes to reclaim it and take it home.

“What is supposed to happen is, if someone goes to LUAC and claims a cat that’s been picked up by the trapper, we are supposed to be notified so we can issue a ticket, and that’s generally what happens,” she explained.

Skinner said they would also tell zoning and code enforcement officer Vincent Smith to look into the home attracting the cats.

“We have a Housing Enforcement Board, and I know which house you’re talking about, so we could then have our zoning and code enforcement officer add that to the list to take a look at it and see what can be done,” Skinner said.

In other Animal Care and Control Commission news, the city commission received news that Gambill Amusements will no longer have fish or other live animals given away as prizes.

“We might like to think that started here,” Skinner said. “I was at the Forest Festival this weekend, and I can tell you they did not have any over there either, so it looks like that will be held up no matter where they’re operating, so we’ll look for that at Strawberry Festival, which seems like a long way away, but not really.”

According to a previous My Buckhannon story, the city council banned the use of live animals as prizes in early 2020. You can read the ordinance in its entirety on the city’s website.

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