Online disagreement turns into cat-astrophe for rescuers

As the Outlook reported last week, because of complaints about sick feral cats living on the 200 block of Forrest Ave., the Animal Welfare League had offered, “to trap and have euthanized all the wild and sick ones and pay for the spay/neuter, vaccination and deworming of her two favorite cats,” according to a letter to the city council written by Vicki Brester. In the letter, she indicated she had made the same offer on behalf of the AWL several years earlier, but the offer was ignored by the homeowner responsible.

After reports appeared on Facebook, in the Billings Gazette and the Outlook regarding the situation, an online battle ensued between folks from several animal rescue groups. Because emotions ran high on the online posts and area neighbors became concerned that their pets may become trapped, AWL rescinded the offer to help, according to Chief Rick Musson.

“As far as I know, eight cats were trapped with two mother cats released to care for kittens,” he said. “But Animal Welfare League has pulled out because of people writing blogs when they don’t know the situation.” The Chief also said that the problem has not been satisfactorily resolved despite the recent captures and neutering.

According to a homeowner in the neighborhood who admits to having fed strays in the past, the problem is a neighborhood issue. She feels she has been wrongly targeted as being responsible, although she has taken action to reduce the number of cats.

“Vicki left us a trap and a week ago we did trap eight cats,” she said. “We found homes for four of them and the four left have been spayed or neutered.” Those are in addition to the mother cats that were released. Several other trapped cats were euthanized because they were ill or unadoptable.

The Forrest Ave. resident said that she has one indoor cat, which has gotten out on occasion by accident.

“She was shot with a pellet gun on Memorial Day,” the woman told the Outlook. “I found her crouched in the bushes injured and took her to the vet. Her leg had to be amputated. Now she sticks very close to me.” According to the woman, several other cats have been shot, as well. “That and other crimes are more of a problem than the cats.”

Stray or feral cats have been a problem in the neighborhood for years, the woman said. She has followed a protocol of trapping, neutering and releasing them.

Attempts to reach Brester at the phone number on the letter she sent to the council were unsuccessful.


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