Cat Controversy: Neighbors Dispute about Feral Cat Problem
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – When Mary Holley lived in California, she heard of a tragic incident that has stuck with her ever since the terrible day.
A couple of farmers were out on their property one day shooting at dogs who had wandered onto their land. In the vicinity, a little boy was playing in the field with his toys. One of the dogs ran from the sound of gunfire – right to where the boy was playing.
The little boy was accidentally shot and killed.
It made her realize that how some people get rid of stray animals on their property isn’t always the best or safest way, nor is it the most humane for the animals, particularly leg traps and wire snares.
Holley, co-founder of Anythings Pawsable Foundation, is afraid that locally an unsuspecting child could become trapped in one. She says she has known several people who’ve used them to trap stray animals.
“A child could bounce a ball over a fence and go to retrieve it, for instance, only to be caught in a trap,” she said. “Not to mention the hurt these traps cause to the animals.”
Twin Falls resident Leisha Marler says she has been an eyewitness to cat injuries. She started her own rescue called Forgotten Felines a little more than a year ago, and takes stray cats to shelters and foster homes. She says a neighbor of hers deliberately traps cats and sometimes kills them.
“There is a humane way to treat animals, especially when there are several animal rescues in the area and one right here across the street,” Marler said.
The neighbor she refers to is John Stevens, who told News Radio 1310 that he has indeed caught animals in his traps and has killed a few of them. At one time he used leg traps, he says, but was told by police officers to use live traps instead.
“That’s what I use now,” he said. “The gate closes, that’s all they do. They don’t cause harm to the animals.”
Stevens says there are too many stray cats in his neighborhood, most of them feral, and he doesn’t know what else to do. He claims some items on his property have been damaged by feral cats, such as the cushions on his boat.
“Who’s going to pay for that?” he asked.
He’s accused Marler of harboring more animals than is permitted by city code. A person can have no more than four cats or four dogs.
Marler, whose rescue has placed animals in homes as far away as Montana and Utah, has her own set of cages on her property but she uses them to house stray cats only briefly until she can place them into homes. And rarely has she had more than four, she says.
She catches feral cats in colonies throughout the city and tries to locate people with property who will accept individual cats as a barn cat to catch mice. Otherwise, she finds permanent homes for kittens and domesticated strays. She says she has foster families around the state that help.
Stevens doesn’t believe that Marler takes all of her cats to homes because, he says, he’s seen several of them roam the neighborhood. You wouldn’t know it during daylight. Few cats are seen then; but, Stevens says, nightfall tells a different story.
“They all come out then. It’s a problem,” he said, noting that one night he counted seven cats in his yard. And, he says, he’s not the only neighbor who traps stray cats. He stopped trapping for a while, but started up again about a year ago after a neighbor approached him about the alleged cat problem.
Stevens said he’s video-recorded people trespassing on his property apparently looking for traps.
Marler also has video cameras on her property.
The controversy doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Both neighbors are at the extreme opposite ends of the issue. There is one thing on which they both agree, however: There are too many stray cats in Twin Falls.
Marler and Holley want pet owners to be responsible and have their cats spayed and neutered. They also want an ordinance in place that says any trapped cat within city limits must be taken to a shelter or animal rescue.
Stevens just wants the cats to stay out of his yard.
“I don’t have a problem with anyone having a cat,” he said. “But keep the dang thing in your own yard and you’ll never have a bit of problem with me. When I’m trapping, I’m doing it on my own property.”
By using live traps, he's not breaking any city code.
Marler, however, claims that her neighbor baits cats to come onto his property. But he says the same of her.
“We’d like to do more, but when it comes down to it’s a dispute between neighbors. It’s about neighbors being civil, but unfortunately they can’t seem to come to an agreement,” said city spokesman Joshua Palmer.
“The courts are the ones that can show who is right and who is wrong. We’re just here to enforce the code. We’re not going to tolerate abuse to animals. We’ll investigate that,” he continued. “We also won’t tolerate anyone harboring more animals than is allowed.”
Marler, who is working with a legal team and community partners to establish a local venue away from her neighborhood to house stray cats, says she’s not trying to badmouth her neighbor.
“I just want him to stop,” she said. “If you trap an animal it should be mandatory that you take it to the shelter or a rescue. I would think the community would be happy that I’m trying to do something about the problem. … Maybe you could call me the crazy cat lady or whatever. But maybe this is my calling.”
Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a series of two.