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Feral cat colonies get thumbs up from commissioners

Feral cats colonies are legal and leash laws no longer apply to felines in Rowan County.

Several months ago, county government wrapped up a task force intended to make sweeping changes at the Rowan Animal Shelter. On Tuesday, commissioners took the last steps to finalize the only remaining recommendation from the group. By a unanimous vote, commissioners voted to amend the county’s ordinances to allow feral cat colonies and remove leash law requirements for felines. The ordinance changes requires a number of changes in wording and a new section in the county’s ordinances called “community cats.”

By allowing feral cat colonies in Rowan, commissioners also approved trap, neuter and release programs. The programs are aimed at reducing the number of cats who are able to reproduce. By lowering the reproduction rate of feral cats, animal advocates hope fewer animals will be picked up by staff of Rowan County Animal Control.

Commissioners had already approved an outline of the program, but needed to change county ordinances to officially make it legal.

Rowan’s version of the trap, neuter and release program largely mirrors one implemented in Wake County.

Approved groups would spay or neuter feral cats and return them to the pick-up location. Local nonprofit group No Pet Left Behind is proposing to start a trap, neuter and release program. It would incur all costs associated with the program. Commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting stressed the county wouldn’t be responsible for any costs.

During the meeting, commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene said cats are already roaming throughout the county, and the programs would use “someone else’s money.” Greene said the county wouldn’t be able to afford to run a trap, neuter and release program.

Commissioner Craig Pierce said without the ordinance change and a trap, neuter and release program, Rowan wouldn’t be able to “achieve its ultimate goal” of having a no- or low-kill animal shelter.

In other business from Tuesday’s meeting:

• Commissioners amended a lease with aircraft charter company Strategic Moves LLC.

The amended lease give Rowan County the right to audit all fuel purchases made by Strategic Moves. The vote to amend the lease came without opposition and occurred after a lengthy closed session.

Previously, Rowan had given Strategic Moves a steep fuel discount after meeting certain, pre-determined benchmarks. County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said the county wanted to ensure the company wouldn’t sell its steeply discounted fuel to other companies. Edds said the fuel audit would be a part of all airport leases in the future.

Edds said commissioners hadn’t thought of including the fuel audit until recently, when negotiating with another, unnamed entity for space at the airport.

• Commissioners approved a resolution petitioning the Department of Transportation to add the recognition of Rowan County Little League Softball Team to welcome signs at the entrance to Rowan. The team won the Little League Softball World Series last month.

• Commissioners appointed Kannapolis resident Olin Miles to the Rowan County Housing Authority Board.

Miles previously served on the housing board, but wasn’t selected when he re-applied in 2014.

At the time Miles left the board, Rowan County commissioners adopted a resolution to designate one seat on the board for a Kannapolis resident. Prior to the resolution, Kannapolis didn’t have a designated seat. Two of the properties owned by the housing authority are in Kannapolis. Miles will now serve in the designated seat. He was recommended by the Kannapolis City Council.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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