Town resident cites cats issue

A growing number of cats in a Strasburg neighborhood has a resident worried about the potential health risks.

But the town likely has little to no power to regulate the felines, Strasburg leaders told the Bowman Mill Road resident on Monday. Town Council’s Ordinance Committee heard from Marianne Lamb, who says cats from a neighbor’s yard come onto her property, leave feces and urinate in the yard.

“We have battled a problem with cats within the neighborhood for 2½ years and they continue to multiply,” Lamb said.

In the spring, Lamb said two to three litters come out from one house but some of the cats could live around an abandoned home next door. Lamb said her neighbor feeds the cats, names the animals and puts flea collars on some. The Lambs have good relations with the neighbor. Lamb said she spoke to the neighbor last year when she was pregnant with her now-4-month-old daughter.

Lamb recalled that she couldn’t go outside out of concern for her fetus’ health.

“The feces is all littered throughout our yard,” Lamb said. “Our tires – I know that it is detrimental to the life of our cars I guess, and our front porch and our back porch just smell of urine.

“We can’t hardly go out there and open up the windows when it gets nice out … and now our biggest concern is that we have Emma and we want to be able to go outside with Emma but we can’t play in the yard because there’s droppings everywhere,” Lamb added.

Lamb estimated 50 cats lived around the houses when they moved to Strasburg. While some die off, more appear. Many of the cats look unhealthy, possibly the result of inbreeding. However, while the cats might act feral, Lamb said the animals go to her neighbor when called. There are signs that the neighbor is taking care of the cats, Lamb said.

Councilman Robert Baker said, according to police Chief Tim Sutherly, the town has little power over cats. The town could humanely trap the cats and pay the cost to spay or neuter each animal, Baker said.

“It’s a perpetual problem in Strasburg,” Baker said. “I think it’s probably been that way for a long, long time.

“I mean, I understand it because I have stray cats in my backyard, too,” Baker added.

Acting Town Manager Jay McKinley said a wildlife expert indicated to him that no rules prohibit a person from feeding a feral cat. Felines are not considered wildlife, McKinley said. Rules are in place to govern dogs, McKinley said.

A resident may humanely trap a cat on his or her property and transport the feline to an animal shelter, McKinley advised. The cat cannot be disposed of, he noted.

“Well, it’s a difficult subject – not just here but with every town – and my research shows that nobody uses an ordinance just because it’s so hard to enforce,” McKinley said.

Lamb said she has been in contact with an animal control officer with the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office and with the Department of Health.

Economic Development and Planning Manager Kimberly Murray suggested that the town look into using the ordinance that prohibits nuisances. Rather than the animals themselves, the feces and urine possibly could be perceived as a nuisance, Murray said. Strasburg also regulates livestock and can require that a person remove the animals if the town receives complaints, Murray said.

Councilman Scott Terndrup said the town tried to enforce the problem using the nuisance ordinance with little or no success. But he warned against ignoring the situation.

“It’s not gonna get better by itself,” Terndrup said.

Mayor Timothy Taylor suggested the town look further at the health risk as a trigger for enforcement.

Councilman Donald Le Vine suggested that McKinley and Sutherly investigate the town’s options if any and to remain in contact with Lamb.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com