Euthanization of stray cats draws lawsuit

February 1, 2012 3:26:23 PM PST
A battle is brewing in Wake County after a recent round-up of a dozen stray cats in Apex. Ten of them have already been euthanized and now a local group is taking the county to court to save the remaining two.

It was a controversial move from the start.

"The neighbors were not complaining," said Lisa Krestalude, the President of Operation Catnip. "We were working with the community."

"Unfortunately, the residents in this community were seeing an increase in the number of cats that were coming around," said Dennis McMichael, Wake County Animal Services Director.

Wake county officials claimed the dozen cats they captured are a public nuisance and can't be released.  Their actions were prompted by complaints and framed by county ordinance.

"It's not really a personal matter," said McMichael. "It's just what we're doing in the best interest of the broad community."

A local advocacy group, however, is crying foul.

"They're spayed and neutered and vaccinated for rabies," said Krestalude. "So, they're not a public health risk."

Now, the cat fight has landed in court.

In documents filed Wednesday, Operation Catnip, an organization that captures, sterilizes, and releases stray cats, claims that, despite an agreement with the county, an animal control officer has intimidated caretakers at an Apex mobile home park since June of last year -- saying they'd be liable if the cats hurt anyone.

Twelve of them were captured and taken to the county shelter.

Once a stray cat is brought in by animal control, it's brought to a holding area where it will be monitored for anywhere from three to five days. If the cat shows signs of becoming socialized, it will be taken to a public area and put up for adoption. If not, the cat will be euthanized.

Ten of the 12 stray cats have already have been put down. The lawsuit seeks to stop the other two and collect damages for breach of contract.

For its part, the county says it won't euthanize the animals for now despite the usual deadline passing and even though one of the two cats appears not to have been fixed.

They admit the ordinance they've used for years is open to interpretation.

"We're trying to move forward in a sensitive manner, but at the same time, Wake County ordinances are in place to protect the population," said McMichael.

A judge is set to hear the case Thursday.

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