Noyo Harbor feral cat issue on City Public Safety Agenda

Fort Bragg city-logoMendocino TV recorded the City of Fort Bragg Public Safety Committee meeting May 11 and its available for viewing on this website. In addition to pedestrian safety concerns on a couple of corners, the Committee  discussed the feral cat issues in Noyo Harbor Drive.  According to the agenda and emails included here, California Department of Fish & Wildlife and USDA Wildlife Specialist requested the City remove the “kitty condos” and feeding bowls from the area, which was done and left several of the groups caring for those animals upset.

These emails were included in the meeting agenda:

From: Carla   Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 10:20 AM

To: Ruffing, Linda  Subject: harbor cats

Members of the Coast Cat Project will be at the meeting tomorrow, 3:00pm, at the police dept conference room. Please let me know if there are any scheduling changes.

I was dismayed, to say the least, that the city tore down and took away everything that keeps the harbor cats healthy. No one phoned us to discuss this, despite our phone number on the signs they took down. It seems clear that the city believes that the harbor cats we trap, neuter, adopt out if possible or release back are the sole reason people are having problems with raccoons. This is a fallacy. While we understand it’s a complex situation, we will not let those cats starve.

People drop their cats off down there because they can no longer afford to care for them or because ‘the cat wasn’t the cat I wanted’. Tourists leave their doggy bag food out for the cats, which obviously draws other wildlife. They drop their trash on the road. The many restaurants in the harbor do not always lock their dumpsters, and the city has done little to mitigate the situation so the various animal groups have stepped in to deal with these situations. Every cat we find is trapped, neutered/spayed. They are then adopted out or returned. The cat population grows because people are irresponsible. The cat population in the harbor has not grown because we interrupt that cycle.

Raccoons and skunks live everywhere we do. Is this really a public safety issue, the result of complaints by a few and/or the protection of an economic tourist income stream for the city?

It is in bad form that the city has seen fit to bully their way into a meaningless solution. It was an act of dismissive, devaluing disrespect that we can let go unchallenged.

I suspect that not many of you who make decisions and take actions like the one yesterday know our history, what we do for the forsaken animals on the coast or what we offer  to pet owners who need financial support for a range of their animals needs. The years and breadth of our combined experience in dealing with discarded animals or those resulting from owners who do not neuter/spay their pets needs to be viewed by the city as a dependable, responsible resource, particularly while city has little to offer in this regard.

I look forward to and appreciate your timely response. Thanks in advance.

carla dimondstein Coast Cat Project: member

Eileen Hawthorne Fund for Animals: Board member

Hello Carla and other Coast Cat Project folks:

I am pleased to hear that you will attend tomorrow’s Public Safety Committee meeting. The agenda includes an item entitled “Discuss Raccoon Issue at Harbor Lite Lodge Trail” and this would be an opportune time to discuss the challenges associated with the feral cat population in Noyo Harbor.

Please let me explain why the feral cat feeding and shelter area was removed.  After receiving formal complaints from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) and the USDA Wildlife Specialist assigned to our area, the City’s code enforcement office sent letters to the Harbor Lite Lodge property owners and the Coast Cat Project identifying the nuisance conditions resulting from the feeding/shelter area and asking that you (1) refrain from feeding the cats and (2) remove the shelters and food bowls from the site. The Coast Cat Project letter was sent to the

Fort Bragg Police Department

coastcatproject@gmail.com email address. In response, the Harbor Lite Lodge property owners pointed out that the shelters/feeding area was on City-owned property (i.e., Noyo Harbor Drive rightof way).  When we realized that, in fact, the City was the responsible party, our Public Works crew removed the shelters and feeding bowls.

I realize that the issue of feral cats in Noyo Harbor is a challenging one and I applaud the work that is done by Coast Cat Project to spay and neuter feral cats and to ensure their humane treatment. I hope that we can work together to help identify a solution that mitigates the concerns of the CDFW and USDA representatives, and residents and property owners in the area– while also addressing the needs of the feral cat colony.

While it sounds like you are aware of the complexity of the issues associated with feral cat colonies, I have attached a document to this email that contains some of the information that was provided to City staff from the USDA Wildlife Disease Specialist. I have invited representatives from both CDFW and USDA to attend tomorrow’s Public Safety Committee meeting. Hopefully, there will be a fruitful discussion of the issues.

Linda Ruffing  Fort Bragg City Manager

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