With 33 cats euthanized, officials debate new efforts

Grace Johnson

The fate of the feral feline colony’s few survivors remains unclear.

After Evanston euthanized 33 of the cats found in a local home Jan. 24, the city has decided to forego killing more animals. Fighting communication issues, animal advocates and city officials continue to disagree on where the cats should be sent once captured.

While the Cook County Feral Cats Ordinance allows colonies in Cook County as long as the owners are licensed and regularly update the county, the city is reluctant to keep the cats in Evanston, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said.

“It’s too many feral cats to have in one area,” she said. “I’m concerned that some of the cats may be aggressive, and it doesn’t work to simply say they are not.”

Tree House Humane Society, a no-kill shelter partnering with the city in the feral cat abatement process, hopes to place the animals with licensed colony owners in Evanston, said Jenny Schlueter, development director for Tree House. Two people have already applied online.

Even if enough residents showed interest in harboring the cats, Tisdahl said the city would still hesitate to change its mind due to concerns about the potential sponsors’ neighbors.

The neighbors of the residence where the colony exists now in the 1900 block of Grant Street have dealt with the colony a long time, Tisdahl said.

“The neighbors are still having problems with the cats, and they have been tolerant a very long time,” she said.

There is confusion over how many cats live on the property. Schlueter believes initial reports of nearly 100 cats on the property were exaggerated.

“When we went to the property for the first time on Saturday, we saw only two or three cats outside,” Schlueter said. “I would be surprised if we capture any more than 15 cats.”

Before Tree House entered into a partnership with the city, Schlueter said animal control euthanized approximately 33 cats and captured another seven cats that are now under Tree House’s care.

Tisdahl estimated the number of cats remaining in the house to be around 50. The question over the number of cats is one of many miscommunications between the city and Tree House.

Schlueter said she tried for 10 days to hammer out a solution with the city before officials finally agreed to form a working relationship with Tree House.

“It was very difficult, and they weren’t very transparent about the process,” she said. “We want them to know we are here to help.”

Evanston Police Cmdr. Tom Guenther said the city has always been ready to work toward a solution.

“We said from the very beginning we were ready to work with whoever contacted us,” he said. “Some of the solutions we were presented with were not rational solutions.”

Megan Lutz, a volunteer for the Community Animal Rescue Effort at the Evanston Animal Shelter, said Evanston citizens sent hundreds of e-mails protesting the city’s original plan to euthanize the cats.

Tree House was also afraid some of the euthanized cats may have been micro-chipped, spayed or neutered, but Tisdahl said this concern is unfounded because the city has worked with the colony before.

“Five or six years ago, we attempted to work with the resident and have the cats trapped, spayed or neutered and released,” she said. “At that time, we were only able to trap three cats, which were the only cats that were spayed or neutered.”

In the years since the city’s first involvement with the colony, attempts were made to remove the trailer in the backyard of the home where many of the cats lived, but no additional cats were officially captured.

Lutz said CARE and Tree House are working together to prevent future crises.

“We are working to put together a task-force,” she said. “We can react and be there for the city, and they will know they can come to us.”[email protected]