The problem of Marion’s feral cat population and possible solutions were brought before the town council last week.
Robert Copeland, who lives on Chatham Hill Road, told the council of having to run feral cats out of his garage just before coming to the meeting. He also spoke of seeing one of the cats kill a cardinal, Virginia’s state bird, the previous week.
Last month, Copeland told the council that a colony of the un-owned cats, being cared for by a neighbor, had done thousands of dollars of damage to his home by destroying insulation. “It’s $3,000 out of my pocket every time I have to replace the insulation,” he told the council. Additionally, he described damage to his car’s paint job when the cats scratch the hood.
Copeland said he’s called law enforcement for help, but because no local ordinances exist there’s little they can do.
He urged the council to adopt management ordinances.
The council has referred consideration of possible ordinances to the town’s planning commission.
Jennifer Bralley, the Smyth County Humane Society’s treasurer, brought another possible solution to the table.
She asked the council to allocate $3,500 to match a $3,500 grant that would fund a TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) program for Marion.
In a letter to the council, Bralley said, “Last year we used our limited resources to TNR approximately 75 cats in Marion and Atkins. With the additional funding of $7,000 we can purchase better quality traps and assist with more surgeries. We also want to educate the public on the proper care and maintenance of cat colonies to allow them to exist in harmony with the neighborhood.”
For the $7,000, she estimated that the society could perform TNR services for about 150 cats.
Bralley told the council that the humane society would like to see any new ordinances support TNR.
Council member Trish Spencer lauded the TNR program, noting that over time it does stabilize and reduce the community cat population.
Town Manager Bill Rush said TNR does have a positive impact unless people then choose to dump unwanted cats in the community.
Rush, a former town manager for Chilhowie, said, when that town undertook such efforts, “We became the dumping ground.”
He said TNR could be part of the solution.
Bralley noted that the society strives to control the pet population. Last year, she said, the society “financially assisted more than 700 pet owners with the cost of spay/neuter surgery, spending $16,000 to curb the pet overpopulation in our community (an average subsidy of $22 per pet).”
Bralley, who’s lived in Marion since 2011, said she’s seen a great increase in the number of cats living wild, many of which have been dumped. “They’re here because of people,” she said.
Councilman Larry Carter and Rush both said that feeding the colonies of un-owned cats is part of the problem.
Marion Police Chief John Clair noted that property owners do have the option of trapping cats that come onto their property and transporting them to the animal shelter.
Despite the national nature of the wild cat population, Rush said there’s a surprising lack of guidance for municipalities.
Bralley referred him and citizens to alleycat.org, which offers solutions for property owners and governments on the management of community cats.