A staffer holds a cat at the Columbia-Richland animal shelter. Photo by Thomas Hammond
The Paces Brook Apartments complex in Harbison is billed as a “pet-friendly” community that includes a dog park.
But some residents say the property management has lately become very unfriendly, at least toward cats.
During the past few weeks, notices have been sent out that cats are not permitted to roam the property. Traps have been placed throughout the property to catch any strays.
Once captured, the cats would be sent to the Columbia-Richland animal services facility, where they are likely to be euthanized. While the shelter is pursuing a no-kill policy, it currently has far too many animals to implement such a program: In 2012, it took in nearly 11,000 animals, of which around 7,200, or nearly two-thirds, had to be euthanized.
Paces Brook resident Jill Ferguson is so angered by the traps she is now moving out of the complex.
She describes it as a “sudden and hostile policy.”
Resident Lynn Kurvcz describes the actions as “horrible” and said she also plans to relocate to a more pet-friendly environment after losing a longtime cat friend she and her husband named “Baby.”
In an effort to protect the cat, which had been been living outside her apartment for years, she attempted to officially adopt it to provide it protection from being trapped. But she was stunned to learn through the adoption process that her beloved cat had an implant chip that prompted contact with the original owner. That owner requested that the cat be returned.
But Paces Brook Manager Kevin White says there are far more complaints about the problems feral cats cause than about the effort to remove them.
He says there are wild kittens roaming around that attract children. At least one child has been bitten.
The apartment complex is responding in accordance with an agreement pet owners sign when they move into the complex with a pet. That agreement states that cats are not permitted to go outside on the complex grounds without a leash.
But Ferguson said some residents were not aware of that provision, which she said has not been enforced in recent years. What frustrates her is that pet owners actually pay $300 for the privilege of having a cat on the premises when they move into the apartment.
Traps are set near walkways and left for many hours without anyone checking on trapped animals, Ferguson says.
Ferguson got so upset when she spotted “Leroy,” a cat she had become familiar with over the years, in one of the traps, that she took it upon herself to release it and take it to a veterinarian.
She believes there’s a better way to handle the problem of roaming cats.
A community of feral cats that came to be known as the “Bi-Lo cats” in Chapin made headlines in 2012 when property owners considered having them removed. Neighbors in the community were feeding the cats, and there was a fear that the colony would grow as the cats reproduce.
But the community responded by having the cats taken to an animal care facility and neutered. Volunteer caretakers were found to provide care for the cats.
Some say feral cats can pose problems because diseases and infections can be spread from cats to humans. These include rabies, cat scratch disease, toxoplasmosis, salmonella, ringworm and roundworm, among others.
But stray cats rarely pose any serious problems in the Midlands, according to Wayne Brennessel, executive director of the Columbia-based Humane Society. He said he has never heard of a rabid cat in the Midlands during the five years he has held his post.
He says the first thing that should be done with feral cats is to have them neutered because they can reproduce rapidly.
The Humane Society has a Trap-Neuter-Return program. The cats are trapped in harmless cages, taken to a low-cost spay and neuter clinic and then re-released back into the wild.
But Brennessel says “there is no sanctuary” for cats to be picked up and taken to.
The problem at Paces Brook Apartments is very common to the Midlands, he says.
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