MONTE VISTA - During last week’s Monte Vista city council meeting a public hearing was held to discuss approving a new cat shelter at 257 Adams. The shelter was recommended for approval by the city’s planning and zoning committee. Lisa Karst who is the president of Cats Alive is purchasing the building and stood before the council to answer public questions.
Cats Alive is a nonprofit that started in 2013 to reduce the number of feral and abandoned house cats in the San Luis Valley of Colorado through spay/neuter programs and, when possible, assist finding caring homes for kittens and tame cats. Cats Alive uses the TNR program, which stands for trap, neuter and return. Karst shared with the counsel that this method has been proven to be more effective than simply removing cats from an area. “Cats Alive initially was treating about 150 cats a year. This year I think we’re going to hit 400. Our operations are now being hampered by the lack of a shelter,” said Karst.
Karst explained that they didn’t want to put tame cats back on the streets. She also told those listening that they currently have no place to organize their foster homes for stray kittens that allows them to be tamed so they are adoptable. “All of these purposes could be served with a very small shelter. We expect our capacity to be about 30 cats. Part of the reason we are staying small is capacity of care. You need to have few enough cats that you can always care for them to high standards. You don’t ever want to have so many cats that they get sick or neglected or smell bad,” Karst told the council.
When asked about hours of operations Karst said that she would like to be open to the public five days a week. As to the exact days that those five days would fall, Karst said she is still figuring that out. When asked what their procedure would be when adopting the cats? Karst said, “What we do currently is a phone interview because our valley is so vast that asking people to drive great distances just for an interview that might not pan out is not a great process. It’s always better to do in person interviews. So that would change to an in person interview with the new location. It would allow us to do better adoptions and match people better with the cats. Somebody would come in and they would do a quick adoption interview just to make sure that they know how to care for a cat, and they have good plans for caring for this cat for its natural life. Then we would have an adoptable cat room in the front where they could go in and meet the cats and find out which one they bond with.” Karst shared that currently they lose about 25 percent of their animals because they don’t have a location where people can meet the animals.
The shelter will be run following PACFA (The Pet Animal Care Facilities Act) regulations. They will be redoing the entire interior to ensure that all surfaces are washable and sterilizable. Everything will be cleaned daily as the shelter has to be odor free. “You’re not allowed to run a filthy shelter or you’ll lose your PACFA license,” said Karst. Cats Alive has an existing PACFA license as a rescue organization.
After the formal questioning period closed, comments of support and opposition were allowed.
Kathleen Ellithorpe took off her councilor hat and spoke in support of the new shelter saying, “I’m here in favor of the cat shelter. I worked at the animal shelter for about three years and our animal shelter can no longer take cats. I do know that there’s some concern about a cat shelter so close to homes. I only live a couple blocks from there and it doesn’t bother me at all. You’re not going to have any odor or smells because PACFA has such strict regulations for cat shelters. One of the things I want to remind everyone of is you can’t have it both ways. You cannot go on social media and in the newspaper and complain about cats in your yard and cats in your flowerbed and then be against a cat shelter that will help take care of that problem.”
Jenny Nehring also spoke in favor of the shelter saying, “I’m in favor of this for a number of reasons. It’s the responsible thing to do. It’s a responsible thing for our community to have. It’s ethical treatment of animals to have a shelter. Like I said it’s in my backyard and I’m pleased to have it in my backyard.”
Some citizens had concerns with the shelter’s proximity to homes and restaurants. Karst shared that it is normal for cat shelters to be found so close to homes and other businesses in other cities. It was also brought up that cats are already living near these areas as pets or in the streets as strays.
There was also a concern raised about how much of Cats Alive policy would be in writing. “It will all be written, and I would be happy to bring a copy of that back to council,” said Karst adding, “The things that the neighborhood is concerned about I’m very happy to have those be part of the conditional approval to make sure that the neighbors are not worried about us.”
After further discussion the public hearing closed, and it was turned back over to the regular council meeting. A motion was made to approve the cat shelter which passed.