Aiken City Council will review an item Monday evening regarding feral cats and how long they should be impounded before euthanization.
The current City code states that any animals in impoundment will be held at the animal control shelter for five days, and, if they are unclaimed, they may be released to an adoption agency or euthanized.
If Council approves an amendment to the code, cats impounded by the City that are deemed feral and have no known owners would be euthanized after a 24-hour hold period.
The reason behind this proposed amendment, in which Council will conduct a first reading of on Monday, is an influx of feral cats that are being picked up by the City's animal control. According to City Manager Richard Pearce, that's causing an increase in fees the municipality is paying to the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. The City has a partnership with the nonprofit, and its animal control office is located in the SPCA's new shelter on Willow Run Road.
Pearce stated in his memorandum that they will continue to promote spaying and neutering of household pets but “what to do with animals whose normal home is the open wild continues to concern us.”
Pearce said that money is not the only factor, but it's a safety issue, too. Pearce cited a staffer who was injured in the past by a feral cat and ended up with a “terrible infection.”
Barbara Nelson, president and CEO of the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare, said that 50 percent of straight admissions are cats and 70 percent of them are feral.
She added that there are obvious signs that a cat is wild.
“If you look at these cats that we say are feral, they typically are cowering in the back of the cage, fangs out and are scared to death,” Nelson said. “If you put a hand in there, they are going to attack.”
Nelson said it's a sad situation that wouldn't be as big of a problem as it is now if more people had their animals spayed and neutered.
Pearce said the amendment would make the City more consistent with the County's existing code.
According to Aiken County Animal Control Chief Enforcement Officer Bobby Arthurs, the County can immediately euthanize a feral cat. Arthurs said keeping a feral cat can be unsafe and cause harm to employees and other animals due to their wild, skittish and defensive behavior.
“It's a danger to the (feral) cat, the employees and the other cats that may be forced to be housed with it if we don't have enough space,” Arthurs said.
Nelson said the amendment could save the City money because it will not be paying daily fees per feral cat that would most likely be euthanized after the code's established five day period because they are not adoptable.
She added that leaving a cat in confinement for five days can cause an immense amount of stress on the animal.
Nelson said the 24-hour period will give staff time to ensure a cat is feral.
Council will also conduct a final reading of an ordinance to approve the advancement of Round III Capital Project Sales Tax funds for a municipal building renovation project feasibility study. The City Manager and finance offices relocated to a refurbished building on Laurens Street and the rooms left vacant at the Park Avenue location will potentially be converted into meeting spaces. The City is also looking to enhance its conference center space also located at the municipal building.
The meeting will take place Monday at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building located at 214 Park Ave. S.W.