By DAVID GREEN
Licensing? Spay and release? Euthanasia? Limits on ownership?
Morenci planning commission members discussed a variety of solutions to address a stray cat problem, but they soon learned that answers don't come easily.
Art Erbskorn suggested a spaying and neutering program in which the cats are returned to where they were living but are marked by the standard practice of ear notching.
"You're not going to catch them all," Erbskorn said, "but you'll reduce the number."
Morenci mayor Bill Foster asked who would pay for the spaying and neutering.
In cases where ownership could be proven, a bill could be sent, suggested commissioner Chip Connin.
Erbskorn noted that a problem exists in determining if a cat is actually a stray or if it's being cared for by a "cat hoarder."
People who hoard cats aren't likely to participate in spay and neutering programs, Connin said, and they will deny ownership.
"If you take their cats away, they will get more," he said.
Licensing cats would be expensive for the City, said mayor Bill Foster, and require that cats wear collars to show they aren't feral.
Commissioner Lowell Oberhaus said that in his experience, it's very difficult to keep a collar on a cat.
City administrator/clerk Michael Sessions said that licensing is in place for dogs, and if the fee were high enough for cats, it could pay for the personnel needed.
"We already do a poor job of enforcing the dog issue," Erbskorn said. "Dogs are barking day and night and there's defecation downtown."
"Enforcement is always going to be tricky," Sessions said, noting that the county dog warden's hours have been reduced.
Oberhaus suggested the need to limit the number of cats that are allowed at one residence, as with dogs. It wouldn't solve the problem, he said, but it would begin to reduce the number of cats.
Connin wondered what could be done even if ownership is determined. The group had already discussed the fact that Lenawee County has no agency to take cats. Euthanasia would anger many residents, Oberhaus said.
Sessions said the existing property maintenance code addresses the matter of defecation on other people's property. Cats spraying on houses, as reported at a council meeting, can be referred to the police department.
To move forward, Sessions said, the group needs to give direction into the number of cats a person can own. Foster said to expect the same reaction as when dogs were limited to three: "You're taking my rights away."
That may be true, said commissioner Sean Seger, but stray cats are infringing on the rights of other citizens.
The issue was tabled while Sessions continues to investigate how other communities have addressed the issue. He will also provide the group with a suggested ordinance about harboring cats and the maximum number of cats allowed.
"That was a good start for a hard subject," Foster said.
CHICKENS—Commissioners responded to a request from at least one citizen and began a discussion about allowing back yard chickens.
An existing ordinance does not allow poultry.
Chickens are now allowed in several communities across the country. Some cities limit the number of chickens that one resident can own and roosters are generally prohibited due to noise.
“I don’t have a problem with it as long as people keep it clean,” Foster said. “I would like to see it move forward.”
Commissioners voted 5-0 to direct Sessions to write a proposed ordinance for discussion at the July 17 meeting.