Cat fight over feral felines could lead to Ralston ordinance | Ralston

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Ralston resident Deb Glazebrook and a group of fellow feline lovers have taken it upon themselves to look after the city’s feral cat colonies.

The group visits the colonies in places like Ralston Park near 84th Street and Park Drive to provide food and water. They also trap the cats, get them spayed or neutered, and vaccinate them — actions they say help control the feral population — and return them to the wild.

“Every day that I am there, somebody comes up and says how much they enjoy these cats,” Glazebrook told the City Council.

Lately, the group has been playing a game of cat and mouse with at least one resident, Terry Ryan. Concerned that the cats would attract wild animals and may be dangerous to domesticated pets, Ryan has been throwing away the food and filling in paths the animals use to get into the park.

The cat fight came to a head Tuesday at the Ralston City Council meeting.

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It isn’t illegal for Ralston citizens to feed stray or feral cats, said Mark Klinker, city attorney. Because of Tuesday’s discussion, the city will look at patterning an ordinance after the one in Omaha, where people are allowed to trap, neuter and release cats.

Ryan told the council he “probably started this whole mess” one Sunday in December when he saw a group of cats and a raccoon eating cat food in Ralston Park. He threw away the food, but each day he found more, and the cycle continued.

Once, when the ground was covered in snow, Ryan said, he saw people digging trenches to allow the cats to get under a fence separating the park from nearby railroad tracks, so he began filling the spaces with snow.

“My problem is you got kids running around the park, and there’s all these cats running around. Maybe they don’t have rabies, maybe they don’t have any diseases, but who’s to know?” Ryan asked.

Glazebrook said the Ralston Park colony is one of five colonies that her group tends. About a dozen cats lived in the park’s colony a year ago, she said, and today it’s down to about six. The decrease is the result of the spaying, neutering and vaccinating, she said.

The animals in Ralston are at risk of being picked up by the Nebraska Humane Society. After receiving complaints about the Ralston Park feral cats, the Humane Society set traps that were unsuccessful, said Kelli Brown, director of field operations for the society. People interfered with the traps, she said.

Brown said it isn’t clear how many feral cats are in Ralston, or how many may carry disease. “They’re secretive little critters,” she said.

After listening to discussion, Ryan’s daughter, Shay, said she was reassured to hear that the cats were being vaccinated.

Ali O’Connor, who also takes care of Ralston’s community cats, said simply taking the cats off the streets and euthanizing them doesn’t solve the problem because new cats will take their place. By spaying or neutering the territorial animals and releasing them, the population will dip.

“We are not crazy cat ladies,” O’Connor said. “There is sound … reason to what we do.”

Mayor Don Groesser ended the discussion by directing Klinker, the city attorney, to work with the Humane Society to draft an ordinance to be presented to council. Klinker said it would likely mirror Omaha’s ordinance.

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