Colony starts a cat fight among neighbors in rural Rowan

Published 12:10 am Sunday, July 10, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

GRANITE QUARRY — On a rural stretch of road near U.S. 52, a feral cat colony has created a hairy situation among neighbors.

Among themselves and publicly, residents of Stone Road have complained about a feral cat colony with a population of roughly 20 felines. The animals are a daily nuisance for a group of several houses located just south of Granite Quarry, the residents say. Teresa Marcum, who lives on Stone Road, says she was especially upset when she found a dead cat in her yard one day.

She used a shovel to bring the cat back into the neighbor’s yard who owned the feral cat colony.

“It wasn’t unusual for me to see a cat every once in a while, but it seemed like I was seeing them every day,” Marcum said. “I would walk out in the morning and see four or five cats in my yard.”

The colony belongs to Stone Road resident Sarah Bruce, who previously operated an animal rescue group she called Precious Furbaby Rescue. Bruce no longer operates her rescue, but says she has a registered feral cat colony.

Feral cat colonies existed but weren’t legally allowed in Rowan County until fall of 2015, when Rowan County commissioners repealed leash laws on cats and approved the operation of trap, neuter and release programs.

The approval, however, didn’t come without some questions. At the time, Vice Chairman Jim Greene and Commissioner Mike Caskey asked whether a trap, neuter and release program would result in unwanted cats being placed on a person’s private property. In the case on Stone Road, residents say unwanted cats have wandered onto private property — cat trespassing. The neighbors want Bruce to build a pen to contain the cats. Bruce, however, says that’s not the point of a feral cat colony.

“These cats are wild and they’re talking about having to be an area for these cats to be in, but that’s not why people have feral colonies,” she said.

Bruce says her animals come from the Rowan County Animal Shelter. She adopted the cats and placed them on her property.

Local veterinarian Rebekah Julian said feral cat colonies occur naturally. They’re not placed on property where they didn’t exist previously, Julian said. It may be OK to add cats to a feral colony that already exist, she said.

“They sort of form around a food source, just like any kind of wild animal,” Julian said.

Rowan County Animal Services Director Bob Pendergrass said the point of trap, neuter and release programs is to “reduce the population of free-ranging cats in Rowan in a humane manner and to ensure adequate supervision and care of these cats.”

The Salisbury Post was unable to confirm whether Bruce has a registered feral cat colony. No Pet Left Behind, of which Julian is a board member, handles trap, neuter and release in Rowan County. She said there are about 10 feral colonies in Rowan County. She wasn’t immediately able to say whether Bruce owned one of the 10 feral colonies. Pendergrass said he is aware of eight feral colonies that exist in Rowan County. He said it may be inappropriate to give out precise information that contains addresses of all feral colonies in Rowan County.

For people who wish to start a feral colony, Pendergrass said it’s important the owners consider their neighbors.

In Bruce’s case, Rowan County Animal Control has set traps multiple times at the request of her neighbors. As a result, cats that were trapped returned to the animal shelter after previously being rescued by Bruce.

When asked about the colony, Bruce admitted it may have been more appropriate for a feral colony to be located on a piece of property that was larger. Regardless of the size of the property, she said it would be difficult to ensure the cats remained on her property, which is two acres.

“They’re cats. They’re wild animals,” she said. “I’m just trying to do the right thing.”

Although the situation hasn’t completely been resolved, Stone Road resident Wanda Nesbit said she wishes Bruce would have communicated better about the problem. Nesbit said Rowan County Animal Control has also provided inconsistent information about the situation.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.