Feral cat colonies legalized for SLC
'Custodians' must arrange for neutering, food, medical care
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Salt Lake City has legalized feral cat colonies, with the goal of reducing the number of the wild animals.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to allow "cat custodians" to register colonies for an annual $5 fee. The caretakers must first prove the cats have been sterilized and vaccinated. They also must feed the cats, while ensuring the food won't become a magnet for rodents and insects.

Council members kept the fee low in recognition of other costs incurred by the custodians.

"These people take care of the neutering of these animals," said Councilman Eric Jergensen. "The easier we can make that process, the more likely someone will participate in that process."

The goal is to reduce the number of feral cats through sterilization. While some studies have shown such "trap, neuter, release" programs offer only a short-term fix at reducing cat populations, there is proof that they do work to some degree. West Valley City has seen the number of feral cats euthanized or brought to the animal shelter drop since it created a feral cat program.

Diane Keay, with the Salt Lake Valley Health Department, questioned the safety of the colonies, noting that the regular feeding could lure rats and raccoons. And she noted the cats will have to be re-trapped to get a series of vaccines.

But groups like No More Homeless Pets in Utah praise the programs for being humane and protecting community health and safety.

The feral cat ordinance is part of a larger overhaul of animal control rules. But the council wasn't ready to vote on the more controversial portion: allowing more than two dogs and two cats per household.

-- hmay@sltrib.com