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The Suburbanite
  • Health chief: Feral cats pose risk

  • The city’s animal control program continues to draw heavy criticism and calls for a new policy. City Council did not vote on any legislation related to the issue Monday night. However, prior to the meeting, council heard a presentation from the city health commissioner about feral cats and public health concerns.

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  • The city health commissioner cautioned City Council about the potential public health problems associated with feral cats.
    During a special presentation prior to Monday night’s council meeting, James Adams said that starting a Trap-Neuter-Return program in Canton neighborhoods to manage the feral cat population would pose a public health risk, including the possible transmission of diseases from feral cats to humans.
    Feral cats, and feeding them outside, can create nuisances and attract wild animals such as raccoons, he said.
    Adams acknowledged that he is not an expert on animal control. However, he said he researched the topic and TNR is not a “panacea.”
    Stephen Hickman, a local veterinarian and the president of the Canton Board of Health, suggested that council create a subcommittee to allow more time to study the  issue and make a “scientifically-based decision” on whether to change the city’s animal control policy.
    Also attending Adams’ presentation were several animal advocates who decry the city’s animal-control program because it results in most of the stray and feral cats and kittens that are captured being taken to the Stark County Humane Society to be euthanized.
    Following the presentation, Toby Franks, who operates a TNR service and is affiliated with Alley Cat Allies, said that Adams greatly overstated the rabies concern.
    Adams acknowledged that he is unaware of a human who contracted rabies from an animal and died in Canton in at least 30 years, speculating it’s likely been much longer.
    However, Adams said the potential for the transmission of rabies from feral cats to humans is present and a serious concern. Hickman said that bats have tested positive for rabies in Stark County.
    Animal advocates pointed to studies and research in support of a method known as Trap-Neuter-Return. The program neuters stray and feral cats and returns them to their territories. Supporters of the method say it stabilizes or reduces the cat population in those areas and also improves the behavior of those cats.
    During the public speaks portion of the council meeting, Steve Silver, of Canton, said that “extermination is not the answer” to the feral cat issue.
    Pete DiGiacomo, of Canton, said that feral cats have caused problems “doing their business and other things around my house.
    “ ... I don’t like it (and) you bring back a feral cat, it’s still a feral cat.”
    Canton City Council
    Monday meeting
    KEY ACTION Council voted to set aside roughly $973,000 in case the city has to make payments to about 30 former employees for unused vacation and sick time.
    Earlier this year, the workers lost their city jobs in connection with an investigation into retirement and rehiring practices. The workers were fired because they could not legally continue their city employment, but the dismissals were not disciplinary in nature, according to the city administration.
    Page 2 of 2 - City officials are waiting for the state auditor’s office to complete a financial review involving the 30 employees.