No payday for strays: West Fargo tables PAAWS agreementWest Fargo City Commissioner Mark Simmons said he knew it would sound mean, but he asked anyway: “Wouldn’t we be better off putting (cats) to sleep?”
By: Wendy Reuer, INFORUM
West Fargo City Commissioner Mark Simmons said he knew it would sound mean, but he asked anyway: “Wouldn’t we be better off putting (cats) to sleep?”
Simmons was questioning the cost-effectiveness of feral cat euthanasia versus paying Minn-Kota PAAWS to catch, spay/neuter and release them back into the wild.
Carol Sawicki and Lori Magelky of PAAWS asked the city on Monday to enter into a contract with the group similar to contracts already set up in Fargo and Moorhead.
Under the contract, PAAWS would trap stray cats, which are especially common in mobile home parks, spay or neuter the cats, vaccinate them and insert microchips.
Feral, adult cats would then be released back to the streets.
The city would pay $20 per cat to help cover vaccination costs. Trapping and all other medical costs would be paid for by PAAWS through grants and gifts.
If a cat is found to be diseased, PAAWS would cover euthanasia costs.
Euthanasia costs the city $29.70 per cat.
Sawicki said the program helps save the kittens who may not survive the winters, while spaying and neutering the feral cats prevents more litters and an increase in rodents.
“We’re talking about feral (cats). They are not tame, not somebody’s pet, they know how to survive,” Sawicki said. “(Feral cats) are part of the urban wildlife.”
Under current West Fargo ordinance, the Police Department is responsible for animal control throughout the city.
When an animal is impounded, it is taken to the West Fargo Animal Hospital and held for three days. If no owner comes forward in that time, animals can be adopted. If the animal is sick, not adopted or taken in by a group like PAAWS, it is euthanized on the city’s dime.
Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan said he is not wholly against the PAAWS plan, but he does have some concerns.
The Fargo Police Department reported a decrease in animal control workload since partnering with PAAWS.
But Reitan said releasing some of the cats back into neighborhoods is a concern for him.
“There are some risks about having stray animals in your community,” he said. “The risks are related to potential spread of disease and damage to property. If we do enter into a program with PAAWS, we certainly need to weigh those risks that would go along, the benefits plus the setbacks.”
Sawicki said another issue is that adoption centers are now oversaturated with cats.
West Fargo Commissioner Mike Thorstad said although it’s not a large sum, the 2011 budget has been finalized and the money concerns him. PAAWS would bill the city by the cat on a quarterly basis, with an estimated need of $1,000 a year.
So far in 2010, West Fargo police have taken in 81 stray cats, of which 11 were euthanized. The majority of cats have been taken by PAAWS in efforts to find them homes. In 2009, 118 cats were taken in and five were euthanized.
The West Fargo police budgets annually for animal control.
In the 2011 budget, $23,200 is allocated for monthly animal board costs and dog/cat license tags, Finance Director Sharon Schacher said.
In 2010, $9,987.50 has been spent on animal control.
Although Moorhead initially contacted PAAWS to join the program, the city ended the partnership at its Monday night meeting along with four other community partnerships to save money.
At Monday’s commission meeting, a motion to deny PAAWS’ request, made by Simmons, was not seconded. Instead, the request was tabled for further discussion.
Sawicki said she would consider a plan from the city that capped the amount it could give.
“We just need a little help. We can’t do this for free forever,” she said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530