Monday, July 4, 2011

ME-OWW! Columbia's 33,000 stray cats to get chipped, tipped -- and summoned to Cat Court

Photo credit Roeselien Raimond
"Never, never, our city does say!  No way shall stray cats stray!  Not in Columbia.  And not today," said the Cat in the Hat. 

COLUMBIA, 7/4/11  (Beat Byte) -- "No person shall provide food, water or other forms of sustenance to a feral cat colony without a feral cat colony caretaker permit," begins Columbia's new stray cat code, which mandates a host of new requirements on cats and their caretakers. 

To get the required 2-year permit, the cat caretaker must first submit an application to the Columbia-Boone County Health Department that redefines the notion of being stray and homeless in the first place. 

The application must provide 1) a detailed description of the cats;  2) proof that the cats have been ear tipped and microchipped, neutered or spayed and vaccinated against rabies;  3)  address of the cat colony;  4) written permission from the private property owner to maintain the colony; and 5) contact information for the applicant.

A $25 permit fee must be paid every two years to maintain the stray cat caretaker permit, and an animal control inspector must be permitted to inspect both cats and caretaker.  And that's not all.  Officially permitted stray cat caretakers must follow more than a dozen rules established under the new law. 

1)  Regularly feed the cat colony, including weekends and holidays
2)  Annually trap each cat over the age of eight (8) weeks
3)  All cats must be spayed or neutered
4)  All cats must be tested annually for feline leukemia and feline immune deficiency virus. 
5)  Those cats testing positive must be humanely euthanized or isolated indoors. 
6)  Identify all trapped cats by tipping their ears and insertion of a microchip. 
7)  Have all cats vaccinated for rabies in addition to any other vaccinations or immunization requirement imposed by the state.
8)  Maintain records on the location and size of the colonies
9)  Maintain records on vaccination, microchipping, ear tipping, spay and neuter.
10)  Take all reasonable steps to: 
        a) remove kittens from the colony after they have been weaned
        b) place the kittens in homes or foster care
        c) capture and spay the mother cat. 
11)  Obtain medical attention for any colony cat that exhibits illness, signs of rabies or unusual behavior
12)  Remove ill cats from the colony to prevent disease or injury to other cats. 
13)  If possible, report number of cats that died or otherwise ceased to be a part of the colony
14)  If possible, report the number of cats placed in animal shelters or permanent homes.

The Health Department director may revoke a stray cat caretaker permit for six different reasons, including failure to properly care for the cats under the ordinance.  If that happens, due process kicks in that that involves official departmental notice to the offending stray cat caretaker "that shall inform the owner of the right and manner of requesting a hearing to contest the action," and could involve "appeals to the Circuit Court of Boone County in accordance with Chapter 536 RSMo."

(Hardened criminals step aside:  Cat Court is now in session, Judge Kevin Crane presiding.  Kitten witnesses in the courtroom -- all rise and please -- no inappropriate mewing during the proceedings or the bailiff will take you to the litter box). 

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