Dearborn aldermen hear options for feral cat problem

DEARBORN, Mo. — Citizens of Dearborn believe they have a feral cat problem. What the city’s board of aldermen and mayor plan to do to combat the nuisance will have to wait at least a month to be revealed. The Dearborn Board of Aldermen’s regular monthly meeting featured some important topics, but all were eventually tabled pending more research and discussion. Most notably, Sgt. Russ Smith of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department and deputy Rick Scott made a presentation on options to deal with a large feral cat population within the city limits.

“I don’t know how large, ‘large’ means, but we can address that in the future as well,” Smith said.

Scott, the department’s animal control officer, already started driving through town looking for evidence of the cats, which can be hard to find due to their reclusive nature and avoidance of humans. Options were presented to the aldermen that included euthanization or various catch/treat/release programs — all with a cost.

The city can enter into a contract with the sheriff’s department to catch and euthanize feral cats at $15 per animal, although Smith warned that studies show elimination of one population can lead to another moving into the area and taking over the same space. The catch-and-release programs include three different facilities that provide the services that would also include vaccinations and optional testing for suspected illnesses such as FIV (feline AIDS) and parasites that can be transferred to humans.

The latter would be at a substantially increased cost per animal, but treated animals would be marked and released to try and help control the population.

Various grants do exist that could help pay for the services. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) will fund municipalities, but Maddie’s Fund — a second option — will not but could partner with the Dearborn Community Betterment Association if Dearborn wanted to pursue that source.

“This is for the community to determine what you all want to do,” Smith said. “We, as a law enforcement entity, are very heavily steered by public opinion. If we go through and start killing tons of cats in Dearborn … just understand that.

“I’m not here to say either way.”

The aldermen accepted the information presented but tabled making a decision, pending further discussion.

A debate initiated by Ward I alderman Sheri Kerns also ended without resolution. A write-in candidate who accepted her appointment to the board, Kerns urged the board to ditch the two-ward setup in Dearborn in an effort to allow for willing participants to fill the city’s four seats.

Dearborn made the switch once in recent years, only to have the board reverse course months later.

“It is pitiful, and you guys have had to put up with me,” Kerns said. “But we need to fix that. We need to fix that and get better people up here. You need to have more of a pool to select from so you have more of an opportunity for people to step up.

“There might be three on one side of the town that are willing to do it and not as many on the other side.”

Bob Bryan, a Ward II alderman, warned against taking representation away from citizens living close to their board members. There were also disagreements on whether to make all four seats at large or have one from each ward with two at-large spots. How to set up the election for the second option prompted more discussion.

In the end, the aldermen decided to urge citizens to show up at next month’s board meeting, scheduled for Dec. 8, to gauge public opinion on the matter, although those present worried that the aldermen would have to make the decision with feedback likely to be minimal.

Candidate filings for two of the board’s seats set to open in April will be due in January, meaning any change likely won’t take effect for the next election.

“I think the idea of wards for a 500 population is limiting to you and handicapping the city,” Kerns said. “I don’t think it’s fair to the city.”