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Boundary restrictions, definitions among concerns with animal code

SPRINGVILLE – Residents made recommendations, offered opinions and applauded the work done regarding the Village of Springville’s revisions to the small animal code. Community members were offered the chance to share their opinions at the Sept. 11 Board of Trustees meeting.

The language defining feral cats and cat owners was one of the concerns raised by members in attendance. As the code revision is written, a domestic cat is defined as a cat that is “kept, harbored or fed by an owner,” a feral cat is defined as a “cat without an owner” and a cat owner is defined as someone who “keeps, harbors or feeds a cat.”

“[The] definition seems confusing,” resident Paul Schmitter said. “A feral cat has no owner … but we feed them … but we’re not the owner.”

Edie Offhaus of Feral Cat Focus raised similar concerns, asking if the revision meant the village would no longer support the organization's effort to trap, neuter and vaccinate feral cats. She pointed to a 2015 agreement between Feral Cat Focus and the Village of Springville that allows the organization to operate in the village. Since that, she said, there hasn’t been many issues with “cat colonies.”

“We know it’s working,” Offhaus said. “I’m hoping the revisions will … hold and support the agreement. We’re here to help in anyway.”

Resident Warren Hashagen echoed confusion with the language. He said he “doesn’t agree” with the language of the revision. Rob Larson offered a similar opinion, noting those who feed feral cats are mostly trying to establish a relationship with them, so they can be trapped and neutered.

“I don’t want to be considered a cat owner by trying to help,” Larson said. “My main objective is to make sure the cats are healthy and not reproducing.”

Trustee Nils Wikman assured residents the village did not mean to alienate those who feed feral cats, or cause an issue with organizations like Feral Cat Focus and Operation Pet.

“We’re proud of the work [with neutering organizations] and we know it’s working,” Wikman said. “On my reputation, we’ll correct that.”

Mayor William Krebs said the board would “gladly revise” the language regarding definitions of cats and cat owners. He said there haven’t been complaints within the village about cat colonies since the 2015 agreement, and the village would continue to be a partner with Feral Cat Focus.

The village formed a committee to revise the code of conduct regarding small animals after a neighbor dispute over the housing of chickens within the village. In 2016, a survey was sent to village residents, with about 50 percent of residents in favor of chickens and 50 percent against chickens in the village. Since then, the committee has been working to revise the code to satisfy both sides of the issue.

“The survey responses … offered no tipping of the scale,” Wikman said. “We have to ask ourselves … how does this law … help people … who don’t want chickens.”

The revised code limits chickens to six hens per single family residences, requires a license and restricts hens to a coop and run at least 50 feet from “adjoining property’s structures used for human occupation.” It also prohibits mulching or composting of chicken waste. While residents thanked the committee for its work revising the code, they also offered their opinions.

“I appreciate trying to make a law to keep chickens … and trying to make it work,” resident George Richert said. “I think it’s much too limiting … 80 percent of village properties can’t make it work. I encourage you to consider shorter boundary lines.”

Allison Duwe, who was involved in the initial complaint about chickens, brought up concerns with enforcement, the restrictions on composting and the notification letter that would be sent to neighboring property owners. She added that mulching or composting chicken waste is ideal to reduce the spread of disease. Hank Duwe supported her point, noting that mulching is valuable part of owning chickens.

Trustee Terry Skelton, who sat on the revision committee, thanked the public for their comments saying they will consider all the recommendations.

“The concern was for the owners and neighbors,” Skelton said. “There were compromises … to be made.”

The board will sort through the comments and recommendations and make necessary edits to the code, before moving forward. A full copy of the code can be picked up at the village office or read online.

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