Abundance of cats in Harrison causes town feud

Posted Aug. 28, 2014, at 8 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 29, 2014, at 7:14 a.m.

HARRISON, Maine — A local rescue organization said cats are out of control in Harrison and said it is only going to get worse if the town ignores the problem.

“The town of Harrison has a major problem with the feral cat situation,” Stephanie Mains, president of the Cat Coalition of Western Maine, said. “The only way to get some of these kittens adopted out is to get them in a shelter.”

But town leaders say more money is being spent on cats than people in need.

The Cat Coalition of Western Maine used to take cats it collected in the town of Harrison to a shelter in South Paris, which is paid for by the town. But Harrison stopped paying for the cats five months ago, according to a letter from the town manager.

“The current financial stress we face requires us to maximize every tax dollar we collect,” Harrison Town Manager Bud Finch said. “We believe it is the pet owner’s responsibility to take care of their pets.”

“Maybe there’s a budget problem — I don’t know,” Carol Reynolds of the Cat Coalition said. “But I know the shelter would like to be able to help the cats in Harrison.”

“The town doesn’t believe it should be paying for everybody’s cats that everybody wants done off of other taxpayers’ money,” Finch said.

Finch said there’s a simple solution: Stop feeding the cats and they’ll go away. Besides, he said, “we do not believe there’s a cat problem, under the definition of state statutes, in the town of Harrison.”

But the Cat Coalition of Western Maine insists Harrison has a huge problem with feral cats. They said they trapped 36 cats and 47 kittens at one local farm. The Cat Coalition said without shelters spaying and neutering cats, the problem in Harrison will only get worse. Stephanie Mains said she spoke to Bud Finch to try and get the town to reconsider.

“He told me on the phone what they do with cats Down East is put them in a burlap bag and throw them off the pier,” Mains said. “I was mortified to think that a town official would say something like that.”

“I was 7 years old when these things used to happen,” Finch said. “I’m sure in the farmlands they did something different. I don’t think I have a record of not liking cats. I have a job of respecting the taxpayers’ dollars.”

Finch said he always has been a cat owner. He said the Cat Coalition just wants to town to pay thousands of dollars to care for all the cats they collect. Members of the Cat Coalition of Western Maine say the town should pay.

Harrison pays about $10,000 a year to “Responsible Pet Care” shelter in South Paris, which cares for 120 cats. The shelter director said they need to get permission from the town to take in any cats from Harrison.

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