Longtime local cat advocate Phyllis Jamison has pleaded with city and county officials on behalf of her feline friends off and on since 1998. In 2001, Jamison encouraged the Council to pass a cat ordinance legislating all-things-cat within city limits—including regulations and procedures governing licensing, breeding and complaints. Council passed the ordinance.
Now, Jamison is back. She has suspicions about how Animal Control deals with her favorite furballs.
“Missoula Animal Control has a history, a culture, of not accepting cats. Period,” she says. Animal Control charges a $25 fee to accept owned, as opposed to stray, cats. Jamison isn’t convinced that Animal Control has the authority to charge the fee, and she believes it leads people to abandon cats, which then gather into feral, disease-ridden cat colonies that breed uncontrollably.
Jamison’s pleas haven’t been ignored. Over the past year, Councilman Don Nicholson, Ward 2, says he has heard “three or four” complaints from constituents about stray cats. He is researching whether abolishing the $25 fee would contribute to more effective management of Missoula’s cats.
Ward 2 Councilwoman Anne Kazmierczak, too, may have a cat ordinance brewing. She has referred an item to committee—a possible ordinance that would apparently require that Missoula’s cats be kept indoors. Kazmierczak did not return a call for clarification. Jamison, however, believes that Kazmierczak’s interest lies with protecting songbirds and may not be related to Jamison’s own cat advocacy.
Jamison herself sometimes pays a visit to Animal Control. There, shelter attendant Barb Parker has grown tired of hearing Jamison’s complaints that shelter staff don’t accept cats. First of all, Parker says, Animal Control encourages people to take cats to the Humane Society because it doesn’t charge a fee to take in owned pets. Secondly, if a cat is a stray and not owned, Animal Control doesn’t charge anything at all. Those with unwanted cats and flexible scruples sometimes use this information to their advantage. Parker often hears stories from cat droppers that include the alleged cat rescuer finding the allegedly stray cat along a highway shoulder. She doesn’t question them, she says, though often “they’re sobbing their eyes out.”
Missoula’s cats, perhaps feverishly breeding in back alleys, could not be reached for comment.