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Marathon County defunds cat care at Humane Society

  • Associated Press
  • October 16, 2013 - 4:05 PM

WAUSAU, Wis. — Marathon County will stop funding cat care at its local branch of the Humane Society, meaning the cost will have to be picked up by cities, towns and villages.

The county board reached its unanimous decision Tuesday, the Daily Herald Media reported (http://wdhne.ws/172WZG8 ). Under the new three-year contract, the only stray cats the shelter will accept as of Jan. 1 are those that bit a person and have to be quarantined.

The shelter houses about 1,000 cats per year. Under the previous contract, the county paid $132,000 per year to help keep the shelter running. With the new contract, the county will only provide money in the form of funds that municipalities can apply for to help cover their own costs.

The county will provide $60,000 next year, $30,000 in 2015 and nothing in 2016. To apply for funds, municipalities have to first enter into a contract with a third party by March to handle stray cats, County Board member John Robinson said.

Under the new contract the county will still allocate $70,000 per year for licensing of stray dogs. State law allows counties to collect licensing fees from municipalities for dogs but not cats.

Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple said he doesn't expect Wausau to apply for county funds, noting that fewer than 50 cats brought to the shelter came from Wausau.

"Where are the others coming from and how are we going to pay for them?" he said. "It's a big problem the county has shifted to the cities."

The board's decision has also upset bird conservationists, who blame free-roaming stray cats for killing millions of birds in Wisconsin each year. Carl Schwartz, the president of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, called the decision "a major step backward."

"It would be a mistake for anybody to do less to address the issue of controlling outdoor cats," Schwartz said. "This is an issue that is very important to people who are concerned about declining bird populations."

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