Olive Branch President Linda Henriksen spoke in public forum at the Dec. 2 Paden City Council meeting, proposing that money reimbursed to the town for its portion of Tyler County dog taxes be provided to the animal shelter for the purpose of managing the stray cat population. Although the shelter is located in Sistersville, Henriksen expressed interest in working with Paden City and other municipalities.
"I'm not on the agenda, but I'd really like to talk about the cat situation we have in Tyler County and see if we can come to some type of situation where we can all work together," said Henriksen. "It won't be taken care of in a short period of time, but over a long period of time I think it will work."
Because Paden City is in both Tyler County and Wetzel County, she clarified that she was only asking for the portion reimbursed from Tyler County.
"Can you give us a synopsis of what you're talking about?" asked Mayor John Hopkins, noting that a more formal proposal by Henriksen would be placed on the agenda for the next meeting.
"I just got Sistersville approved for the dog tax fund (going to the Olive Branch)," she said. "We're setting up a low income spay and neuter program, and we're setting up a stray cat fund to get the stray cats altered and released back to where they live."
Councilman Tom Trader mentioned the damage stray cats do to peoples' properties.
"There's not much that you can really do about that," she said.
"Trap them," he said.
"You can trap them," she said. "But you can't take them and release them someplace out of their environment, because they come back."
Mayor Hopkins read a section of the ordinance regarding animals at large.
"The city is instructed to enter in the necessary agreements with animal hospitals, shelters, and farms to carry out the terms of this section," he said.
When asked about Sistersville's commitment to her proposal, Henriksen explained.
"Sistersville has been approved and I've received more than $800 from the dog tax fund," she said. "We've already done close to 20 cats in Sistersville. They were altered, their ears were tagged, they were released back, and people have agreed to set up feeding stations so they're not all over everyone's property. They are being fed at certain areas."
Councilman Rick Casteel questioned the feeding of strays.
"If I understand what you're telling us, we should set up feeding stations for strays within this town so that they can still run wild and we feed them," he said.
"Their lifespan is only about two to five years once they're altered and released back into the wild," explained Henriksen. "If you do it the other way and you don't at least get them altered, they're reproducing. If they don't reproduce, your cat population is going to decrease." She pointed out that this lowered life expectancy does not apply to altered house cats.
"Do you have a plan?" asked Casteel.
Henriksen said she does have a plan.
"Can you tell me if this plan has ever been implemented and is working anyplace else?"
"You can talk to the Feral Cat Program," she said, indicating that he could contact their location in Parkersburg.
"I probably won't do that," he said. "I'm expecting you to give me that information."
"The information is that it works," she said.
"Where's it working at?" he asked.
"It's working out of Parkersburg, Moundsville, and Elkins," she said.
Councilman Trader said that the sheriff's departments of Tyler and Wetzel were supposed to be handling some of these animal problems, but they were not.
Henriksen will return to the next regular meeting to further discuss her proposal with council.