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Police shot feral cats in this Iowa town until an outcry put the practice on hold

The city of Jefferson, Iowa, has suspended a policy allowing police officers to shoot trapped feral cats after an outcry. Feral cats, like this one photographed in 2013 in Key Largo, Fla., pose a serious threat to ecoysystems.
The city of Jefferson, Iowa, has suspended a policy allowing police officers to shoot trapped feral cats after an outcry. Feral cats, like this one photographed in 2013 in Key Largo, Fla., pose a serious threat to ecoysystems. Associated Press file

Feral cats are a big problem in Jefferson, Iowa, but some people found the city’s solution – allowing police officers to shoot and kill trapped feral cats – even more problematic.

“Cats don’t belong outside,” Jefferson City Councilman Matt Wetrich told KCCI, citing studies showing having cats as predators outdoors damages the ecosystem and kills hundreds of milions of birds in the United States.

A city ordinance allows Jefferson residents to request a police-monitored cat trap and authorizes city police officers to shoot any trapped cats deemed unadoptable, according to Associated Press. City administrator Mike Palmer said officers typically kill about one feral cat each month, but Wetrich acknowledged that doesn’t sit well with all residents.

“I think the issue with the idea of shooting a cat is tough in the fact that it seems violent because we think of shooting as violence, and that’s an entirely reasonable thought,” Wetrich told KCCI. “I think that’s a pretty natural reaction.”

Resident Sue Taylor told WHO-TV that she disagreed with the practice, which the city adopted to save money.

“Kinda cruel, I think,” Taylor said. “I just thought they always took them to the animal rescue, but no, I don’t think they should shoot them.”

“There are best practices out there, and this definitely is not,” Josh Colvin of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa told KCCI. League officials also called the policy counter-productive.

“If you take the cats out of the community, more cats are going to fill the void; it's just a natural function,” Scott Wilson, the league’s animal welfare coordinator, told WHO-TV. “If there's a good environment for cats, cats are going to come in. Where if you have an existing colony that is not breeding, it'll keep new cats from entering the colony, but the colony will slowly, over time, die out.”

After meeting with the league and the Animal Protection and Education Charity, city officials suspended the policy pending a review of other options, which could take up to 18 months, WHO-TV reported. The city will consider spaying and neutering feral cat colonies, opening a shelter for cats and more humane methods of euthanizing feral cats.

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