Feral cat problem brought to City Hall

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Wilkes-Barre’s feral cat problem had a temporary solution. But now the agreement, with outside help has been voided and the issue brought right to City Hall.

A decision to void a six-month probationary period with two outside animal groups, Whisker’s World and Happy Hearts and Tails comes abruptly just two months after the start. A letter voiding the agreement went out earlier this week with no reason for the termination. Wilkes-Barrre city administrator Rick Gazenski says the problem was still notably present.

“Our animal control couldn’t get involved, however, he was getting involved. It became a little bit of a chaotic period for us,” Gazenski said.

Gazenski adds complaints were still piling up and properties were found damaged by colonies of the feral cats.

“There were numerous issues. The cats were not getting picked up. We’ve gotten photos from residents throughout the city of cats on their property. In some cases there were seven, eight and 10 cats on their properties,” Gazenski said.

He notes the organizations in the agreement were doing good work, but wit the issues still rising, he says it is time to take the issue back into municipal hands.

‘I understand they are understaffed. At the same time, as the city goes, we need to take care of all of our residents,” Gazenski said.

Gazenski was present for Thursday night’s city council meeting. So were the presidents of the two organizations from the agreement, and they had something to say.

“False information, a lot of the complaints, and I got a copy of the complaints, were the same people complaining over and over again. That’s not a new complaint, that’s the same person complaining over and over again 20 times,” Happy Hearts and Tails president Dawn Mendygral said.

The pair feel that they were more than helping with the issue and they had proven trap, neuter and release works, it’s just not the quickest solution.

“We’ve got to wait for appointments. You have to wait, you have to go on a list, we can’t run down today and trap the cats. If people need help, they need to wait. This is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight,” Whisker’s World president Brenda Buckler said.

Property owners say they like the idea of cats being taken away, but not being dropped back off in their neighborhoods.

“We can’t just go dump them somewhere. They have to go back to their territory. There’s not a magical cat land. They have to go back to what they know,” Mendygral said.

Counilwoman Beth Gilbert took to social media after receiving backlash pointing the finger for the termination at council. She says now that they are in the loop, they are working on a city ordinance to address the situation.

“We are still looking to have TNR, but ensuring afterwards the cats are still cared for so they still get food, water and other necessary amenities because there is another ethical argument that these cats, once they are released, are just roaming the streets. They could get hurt another way,” Gilbert said.

Gilber says there’s a human way to handle the issue, but it’s important that the majority of neighborhoods are on board.

There is a petition with more than 4,200 signatures on it to stop Wilkes-Barre from trapping and euthanizing cats. Although both animal control and the city administration say trapping is not as frequent as people think and that the SPCA makes final decisions on ferals that are brought in.


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