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Residents concerned over cat ordinance

Multiple Polo residents raised concerns on Monday about a recent ordinance passed with the intention of controlling the city’s feral cat population. 

The ordinance includes fines for people feeding cats outdoors and limits the number of animals that can be “owned” to four.

“People are sick and tired of cats being in and defecating in their yard and finding them, some dead,” Alderman Randy Schoon said. “It’s a problem. People feed them and people leave that food out. It attracts cats and more animals. It’s a problem in this town and it needs to stop.”

The idea of a trap and neuter release program was brought up by a resident as an alternative, saying that the ordinance shouldn’t regulate people who own other animals. 

City Attorney Tom Suits said the ordinance created a new definition of the word “owner.”

“If you feed or harbor them, you become the owner whether you think you are or not,” Suits said.

Polo resident Laura Gaulrapp attended the meeting via Zoom and voiced her concerns. She has two cats that live on her deck, and said strays come to eat as well. But she said she’s working to help the feral cat problem, not make it worse.

Gaulrapp has gotten nine female cats spayed and rabies shots on her own dime and brought in 14-15 kittens and trained them and found them homes. 

“Now you’re making me and people like me that want to help scared that we’re going to get in trouble for too many animals because we’re only allowed four animals,” Gaulrapp said. “Can you work something out with us to help these issues? I’m stopping it by getting them spayed.”

Schoon countered by asking Gaulrapp if she has litter boxes for all of her cats. She said they defecate in the grass and bury it. Schoon said that grass is likely in other yards. 

Board members and Mayor Doug Knapp said they looked into and wouldn’t be opposed to a trap and neuter release system, but the issue would be paying for it. 

“We’re not going to do anything that costs us money,” Schoon said. 

Other options that were discussed included specific times that outdoor cats could be fed as well as requiring residents to license every cat they own, like dogs. That option would likely be too costly for residents.

Schoon claimed feral cats have been an issue in Polo for years and that regardless of the response, something needed to be done about the problem. 

“We’re not punishing the people who want to be responsible,” Schoon said. “We’re punishing the ones that create the problem by putting food out on the porch and it draws animals, not just the cats.”

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