Dear Editor:

As a long time advocate for stray animals (cats and dogs) I have been reading with interest the recent stories and letters in your newspaper and on-line regarding the recent push by the City’s bylaw officer to stop the feeding of stray and feral cats in the community. I guess I can partially understand Mr. Davis’ point, in that if most of the feeding were done off of City owned property, perhaps there would be less concern.

I do find Mr. Davis’ approach to be somewhat ‘militant’. He has contacted several media outlets to talk about the issue. He has also threatened to take legal action against the individuals providing the food to the cats, and also indicates (without much factual information it appears) that the cats are a ‘health’ hazard. Mr. Davis says that his approach (removing the cat food, threatening legal action and investigating the storage of cat food on private property) is a way to ‘educate’ the individuals responsible for feeding the stray cats in an effort to have them stop. In my opinion, his approach is not ‘educational’ in any way. Using a big stick is often not a very effective way to obtain compliance in bylaw enforcement matters, especially when the issues involve living beings.

Mr. Davis claims that a man has been ‘attacked’ by a feral cat – it is highly unlikely that a true feral cat would come close to a human, let alone attack, unless it is held against its will or is being threatened. And because truly feral cats are quite wary of humans, it is very difficult to ascertain an accurate number of these animals in any location, although Mr. Davis says there are 525. Mr. Davis also claims that the cats are ‘dirtying’ an otherwise pristine community. I would again suggest, that if starvation and neglect is Mr. Davis’ answer, that approach will most surely put Merritt ‘on the map’, perhaps in ways Mr. Davis is not intending.

It is well known that the only true positive approach to any overpopulation of cats or dogs, which of course as most knowledgeable people know is a human generated issue, is a trap/neuter/release program. Taking food away, particular in the dead of winter only exacerbates the problem by encouraging the cats to forage for food in a wider area. And ultimately, starvation can occur, which again, is considered neglect, and certainly could worsen the City’s reputation.

As someone with extensive experience in other communities doing trap/neuter/return programs with cats, I will be contacting the City of Merritt shortly to propose a humane, proactive approach to this issue. I am of the opinion that only a proactive approach will work, providing Merritt a positive image, rather than the negative one that Mr. Davis is unfortunately fostering.

Joni Hughes

Chase, BC