Carbondale trustees declaw cat ordinance |

Carbondale trustees declaw cat ordinance

Katherine contemplates straying onto public property in Carbondale.
Will Grandbois / Post Independent |

After months of debating how to rein in stray cats, Carbondale’s Board of Trustees passed a declawed version of the proposed cat ordinance.

Trustees voted 4-1 in favor of the new ordinance, with Trustee Pam Zentmyer casting the sole dissenting vote.

While the ordinance encourages Carbondalians to get their cats vaccinated, licensed and spayed or neutered, these are not strict requirements.

The board had two ordinances to pick from: the first would require these steps, and the second, which the board selected, only encouraged vaccination, licensing and spaying or neutering.

The latter ordinance, which the town’s cat committee recommended, was also the cheaper of the two and was already accounted for in the 2016 draft budget, said Town Manager Jay Harrington.

The draft budget allocates $5,000 to the new program, $1,000 of which will go to space in Red Hill Animal Health Center and the rest can be spent flexibly.

While the ordinance does not mandate vaccination, licensing, spaying or neutering, it expands the town’s definition of “nuisance cat,” and it clarifies the penalties, said Harrington.

The ordinance states that no Carbondale resident shall have a nuisance cat, which it defines as one that causes unprovoked personal injury, that wanders at large and whose owner can’t be found, that is diseased, that disturbs the peace by habitual meowing or that soils someone else’s property without it being picked up by the owner.

Penalties for violating this ordinance start at $10 for the first violation and $30, $50 and $100 for subsequent offenses. More than that, and the cat owner could face fines in court ranging from $100 to $1,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail.

Trustee Frosty Merriott noted that Roaring Fork Audubon Society, which initially pushed for the ordinance, and Colorado Animal Rescue have agreed to collaborate on educational efforts over the next year.

Delia Malone of the Roaring Fork Audubon Society said the organization is willing to fund educational efforts and to subsidize the costs of spaying and neutering.

Audubon pushed the ordinance to control the cat population due to their propensity to kill native songbirds in the area, said Malone.

Zentmyer also raised concern that under this ordinance an impounded cat would be automatically spayed, neutered or vaccinated by a veterinarian who knew nothing of the animal’s medical history.

But Trustee Allyn Harvey, standing in for the absent Mayor Stacey Bernot, said he was not comfortable picking up animals and sending them out unvaccinated. The town already has the same vaccination policy for dogs.

Carbondale’s contract with Red Hill for impounding cats would be structured the same as their contract for dogs, said Police Chief Gene Schilling.

As far as a policy for when to spay, neuter or vaccinate an impounded animal, Schilling said the veterinarians at Red Hill have their own protocol that’s not outlined in their contract with Carbondale.

Trustee John Hoffmann pushed for requiring cats to be spayed and neutered, fearing that the ordinance was otherwise toothless.

But others, including Cindy Sadlowski, who runs the Carbondale Street Cat Coalition, feared that many cat owners would abandon their cats before paying to have them spayed or neutered.

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