COLUMBIA — Taking care of feral cats would require a permit under proposed changes to the city's animal control ordinance.
The Columbia Board of Health will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Department of Public Health and Human Services, 1005 W. Worley St.
The proposal would require that anyone caring for feral cats be at least 18 years old, apply for a permit through the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services and meet a number of other conditions.
Gerry Worley of the health department said the board spent the past year working on upgrades to the ordinance and looked at other cities' rules regarding feral cats.
Board Chairman Nathan Voris said the proposal could help control feral cat populations.
"The changes to the ordinance are an effort to standardize the care of wild cats," Voris said. "It is, one, to make it lawful for people to do it and, two, to provide guidelines instead of just recommendations as to how it should be done."
Under current laws, it is illegal to own or harbor more than four cats in the city.
Feral cats are described in the ordinance as "any cat of any breed that is or becomes undomesticated, untamed, wild or is not a pet."
According to the proposal, a permit would last two years and cost $25. Before receiving a permit, applicants would need to:
- Provide a detailed description of the cats in their colony.
- Provide proof that the cats in their colony have been ear-tipped, micro-chipped, vaccinated against rabies and either spayed or neutered or provide proof that the cats in the colony were being trapped for these purposes.
The colony would need to be located on private property or the applicant would need to provide written permission from the owner of the property, the proposal stated.
After receiving a permit, feral cat caretakers would be required to regularly feed, look after and maintain records for each cat in the colony. In addition, the ordinance would require that caretakers continue to annually trap any cat more than 8 weeks old to ensure the health and well-being of the cats in the colony.
The public has been invited to submit written comments on the city's website and attend Thursday's meeting.
"It is an opportunity for people to come forward and speak their minds about the proposal," Worley said.