Carmel City Council considers addressing feral cat problem

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The Carmel City Council is considering legislation that would manage free-roaming cats in the city.

City councilor Jeff Worrell is sponsoring the proposed ordinance that would address people that feed free-roaming cats, many of which are stray cats or feral cats. He said residents in the southeast district have told him they see a problem with feral cats and sent him an ordinance from Bloomington as an example of something that could be done. The bill has been sent to committee.

“This ordinance takes the best of a couple of other ordinances,” he said. “I am only responding to concerns. I’m still not convinced this is good legislation.”

The proposed ordinance would allow the Carmel Police Dept., or a designee, to identify managed free-roaming cat colonies and prohibit anyone from feeding the cats unless they are a “colony caretaker,” a position determined by the city that would require registration with CPD. Colony caretakers can’t have convictions for animal cruelty and can’t allow cats in the colony to become a public nuisance. CPD reserves the right to trap free-roaming cats in a humane manner, surgically sterilize them and return them to their colonies.

“I have received complaints from business owners that free-roaming cats have taken over their business lots and have become a nuisance,” City Council President Sue Finkam said. “I think this legislation is a place to start.”

City councilor Ron Carter said feral cats have been a problem for some time, including near city hall.

“You just about couldn’t get into city hall through the odor field that was created in our shrubbery,” he said. “And this was pretty much created by one person who was stocking 40-pound bags of cat food in her car and was feeding handfuls of cat food to feral cats along the Monon Trail and the Gazebo. And it was very hard to persuade that person that it shouldn’t be standard operating procedure in this area.”

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard agrees. He remembers one year at CarmelFest when the Carmel Symphony Orchestra ran into a problem because of a nearby feral cat colony.

“Some of the members said, ‘We can’t even sit on the Gazebo,’ because apparently the smell from the waste from a feral cat colony in that area was so bad,” he said. “And of course (Director of Utilities) John Duffy saves the day. He found some chemicals to mask the smell for the evening and we found there was a huge, amazing mess from these animals. And I want to stress these are not your house cats. It’s almost evolved into a different animal than we are used to.”

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