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Batavia Council supports city-county task force on problem of feral cats

BATAVIA – The City Council is supporting the creation of a joint city-county task force to address the community’s growing problem of feral cats.

In her second presentation on the subject over the last two months, Assistant City Manager Gretchen L. DiFante said that a committee of people representing both the City of Batavia and Genesee County would work best toward finding a way to manage the stray cat population.

“Much of the activities (with these cats) are going on in pockets outside of the city,” she said during Monday night’s Council meeting. “That’s why we believe it is important to our success to explore the possibility of combining our efforts with the county.”

DiFante said she met with County Manager Jay A. Gsell as well as Paul A. Pettit, county public health director, to identify committee members and to set up a plan of action.

“We’re looking at a research and recommendation phase followed by an implementation phase,” said DiFante, who will facilitate the committee. “We hope to have our first meeting in mid-June and report back to Council in August.”

DiFante made it clear that the city’s goal is not to fund the effort to control feral cats but to be guided by “working models in Western New York that engage its citizens to pursue grants and partner with nonprofit organizations.”

The assistant county manager said she will be enlisting community members, a veterinarian and a member of the SUNY Buffalo Animal Law Pro Bono Project Group to join the committee which already includes Sarah Balduf of the county Department of Public Health; Ann Marie Brade, county animal-control officer; and Kathy Schwenk of Spay Our Strays.

The SUNY Buffalo Animal Law Pro Bono Project Group promotes the Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Return, or TNVR, approach to controlling feral cats. Council Member Eugene Jankowski Jr. asked DiFante if that was the only method being considered in light of letters he has received from residents who are against the release of these cats back into the neighborhoods.

“People are concerned about the predatory nature of these cats,” he said. “They may be neutered, but the population doesn’t go down for many years.”

DiFante said the group’s efforts “center on this being a public health issue” and that it will make a recommendation to City Council to adopt one practice.

“We have included the Pro Bono Project Group because we like the idea of not having to pay for legal advice,” she added.

In other business, the Council:

• Voted to authorize County Manager Jason R. Molino to sign agreements for the sale of nine properties that were sold at auction March 14. The bids on the properties totaled $175,000.

• Established a Genesee Region Advisory Committee for Persons With Disabilities in cooperation with Independent Living of Genesee Region. Council Members Kathleen Briggs and Patti Pacino volunteered to join the committee.