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Feral cat fight may be pre-empted

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Aldermen on the Human Services Committee teed up a debate about regulating feral cats in Evanston that may turn out to be irrelevant.

After hearing from Paul Michelson of the Tree House Humane Society about the success the group has had in establishing managed colonies of feral cats to control rat populations in many Chicago neighborhoods, Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggested the city should move forward with modifying its ordinances to encourage creation of such colonies here.

Paul Nickerson

But Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said she was concerned about possible objections from the Audobon Society and other bird fanciers who fear the impact of cats on birds.

"If the cats eliminate 95 percent of the rats," as feral cat colony advocates claim, Revelle said, "then what will the cats go after?"

Diane Petersmark of the Sherman Gardens co-op development, which has the only publicly acknowledged feral cat colony in Evanston, said the cats have been a huge success in eliminating a rat problem for the apartment complex, which is adjacent to two restaurants.

"I've buried a whole lot of rats and not a single bird," Petersmark said. The cats want to catch something that's walking around, rather than flying, she added "and our courtyard is still full of birds."

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz suggested that staff could come back with a plan to address the issue in January.

But Alderman Brian Miller, 9th Ward, said a city effort to ban feral cats would likely be preempted by a state appeals court ruling in 2014 that said the Village of Bridgeview could not ban feral cats in the face of a Cook County ordnance that makes managed colonies legal throughout the county.

In the wake of that ruling, at least one other town, the Village of Richton Park, has adopted an ordinance that tries to bring its code in line with the county rules.

Related story

Feral cats may help with rats (6/7/16) 

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