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Herding cats in Bethel

By Fritz Mayer
May 16, 2012

Every municipality in New York State that issues dog licenses must also appoint an animal control officer to control the dog population, whether domestic or feral.

Municipalities that don’t issue dog licenses have the option of appointing an animal control officer. But there is nothing in the law about the control of domestic cats, and the feral cat populations can get rather high in many municipalities.

The Town of Bethel has developed a plan to help cat owners spay or neuter their cats and, at the same time, help tamp down the feral cat population.

Councilmember Vicky Vassmer-Simpson explained the program, called “Too Many Cats,” at the town meeting on May 9. She said that one day per month the town’s animal control officer, Henni Anker, will take the town animal control van to a veterinarian in Ulster County who has offered to spay or neuter owned cats for $65 each. The owner is expected to pay $35, and the Bethel Local Development Corporation (BLDC) will pick up $30.

Vassmer-Simpson said, “$65 is a very good price, and you can also get a rabies shot, which is important because the cat colonies that form in the area can be a health hazard.”

The van will carry eight cats in carriers and leave at about 7 a.m. and return at about 6 p.m. If the program fails to attract eight owned cats, Anker will take feral cats from the community, and they will be returned to the wild after they are spayed or neutered. The cost for spaying or neutering feral cats will be $20.

Vassmer-Simpson said, “There are black cats running all over Kauneonga Lake. They’re killed by cars and die of terrible diseases, and we’re hoping we can do something about it.”
She said anyone who wants to donate to the cause can make a tax-deductible donation to the BLDC, specifying that it go to fund the Too Many Cats program.

Building report

Also at the meeting, supervisor Dan Sturm read the monthly building report and said spending on construction projects in April of 2011 amounted to $296,500. In April this year, it was $467,000, which represents an increase of 42%. He said, “Over all, we are currently up 40% over last year,” which he said was a good economic indicator. He added that two new homes began construction in early May and were not reflected in the report.