PHOENIX — Neighbors on opposing sides of a lingering battle about roaming cats and the rights of residents to trap them will square off at 6:30 p.m. today before the City Council.
Resident Steve Kious says the problem stems from unpractical and outdated city ordinances prohibiting cats from roaming at-large within city limits.
Residents whose cats wander off their properties can be fined up to $500 per instance.
Kious, who lives in a neighborhood off of Colver Road, said he and a group of residents want the ordinance changed and urge the city to temporarily, if not permanently, ban any form of trapping.
Trapped cats can be stuck for hours in sweltering heat, Kious said, a concern this time of year.
His own cat, Mo, which he shares with neighbor Marlene Herinckx, was trapped in January.
"When I picked him up, I saw the address of the neighbor who brought him in and decided to talk to them. They clearly were not interested in finding a workable solution. And it's perfectly within their rights in Phoenix to trap neighbors' cats."
In the Rogue Valley, a handful of cases involving cats made headlines this year, including one where a pet cat named Max, mistaken as feral, was euthanized.
In Phoenix, a litter of kittens and at least a handful of adult cats were poisoned on the west side of town near First Street and Phoenix Elementary School.
In the case of Mo, Kious said, a neighbor "at least a football field away" was luring cats with wet cat food into areas they would not otherwise be prone to go.
"I live quite a ways away, and my cat had never been on their property before, but when you bait a trap with wet food, you're drawing them exactly to where you claim you don't want them to go," Kious said.
It's unethical to bait cats in the first place, he said. Furthermore, it's wrong to not be required to feed and water them, Kious said, and to be allowed to leave them in the hot sun all day.
Benjamin Way homeowner Mike Hess, who acknowledged trapping cats, including Mo, said he hopes the city will find a solution to ensure the rights of all residents, not just cat owners.
Hess said the city ordinance prohibiting wandering cats should be enforced.
"The problem had gone on for years and years before I finally got tired of it and started trapping," Hess said. "I feel like, if you got a cat, take care of it. If you don't want it trapped, keep it inside. It's pretty simple."
Hess voiced frustration with cats defecating in his landscaping. Allergic to animals, Hess said neighbors offered motion-sensor sprinklers and electric fences as deterrents to cats that would trespass on his property. "But why should I have to deal with that when the ordinances say their cats can't even be on my property?"
Phoenix code enforcement Officer Andrew Alexander said the cat problem in Phoenix is complex.
Trapping is not monitored, he noted, but state laws about animal cruelty require anyone with an animal "in their custody" to provide reasonable care such as fresh water and shade.
Alexander said the city ordinance prohibiting wandering felines is "complaint-driven," meaning that owners of the thousands of cats in Phoenix are not fined unless a complaint is made with police.
Even in instances where complaints are made, a judge, Alexander said, could be flexible if the problem were resolved.
Hugh Hague, who lives near Kious, said he had a microchip implanted in his family cat, Boots, almost immediately after he learned about Hess's traps.
"Fortunately for us, Boots is scared to death of going more than a house away, so we don't seem to be at risk like our neighbors are," Hague said.
"I think the issue is simple. If you're going to put food in a trap, you're attracting animals that wouldn't otherwise be there. Everybody in this entire neighborhood has animals. A little bit of tolerance goes a long way."
Hague's 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, voiced concern for cats in her neighborhood.
"Our cat, Boots, is really like a family member. She's not mean, and she's a good cat. When she moves she kind of jiggles, so she doesn't wander very far," she said.
"It's really sad and scary to think that she could get trapped and be taken away and maybe euthanized. It's understandable that some people don't like cats, but you can be nice about it."
Added the girl, "We hope the city will make it where they can't be trapped so that no one has to worry about their cat being missing."
Kious and his neighbors plan to make a presentation to the City Council today.
The meeting will be held at the Public Works Office, 1000 S. B St.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com.