Dozens – “if not tens of dozens” – of feral cats have formed a colony near at least one Albuquerque condominium complex, creating a nuisance for the people who live there, according to a lawsuit against the city over its “trap, neuter, return” policy.
The Winrock Villas Condominium Association filed a lawsuit last week in 2nd Judicial District Court against Albuquerque seeking damages over the feral cat program. The lawsuit describes the program as a “public nuisance” because the cats damage property and could also spread diseases.
Blair Dunn, an attorney for the condo association, said that, for years, the city has trapped, then spayed or neutered feral felines before releasing them at spots throughout the city where they’ve formed colonies.
An arroyo near his clients’ homes in the Uptown area is the drop zone where one cat colony has formed, he said.
“The city can’t just be dumping this burden back onto the citizens of the city,” he said “It’s the city’s responsibility to take care of this problem.”
Animal Humane New Mexico endorses “trap, neuter, return” as a humane and effective method to manage feral cat colonies, according to the organization’s website.
The city in a previous lawsuit defended the practice in court. But the ruling in that case didn’t directly address the merits of the policy.
“The city has not been served with the suit and will review the case when it is served,” Alicia Manzano, communications director for the mayor, said last week.
Marcy Britton – an animal welfare activist in Albuquerque and a staunch opponent of the trap, neuter, return policy – owns a condo and is on the board of directors of the condo association. She said opponents of the trap, neuter and return policy argue that it can spread disease to otherwise healthy pets or people and that the practice is cruel to the cats that are ultimately abandoned at places throughout the city after they have undergone the medical procedure.
The lawsuit also said large populations of feral cats pose a risk to other pets and protected birds.
More than 10 years ago, the city animal shelter had a “feral cat” room where wild cats or the more independent, outdoor cats were kept after being caught, she said. Although some of those cats were ultimately euthanized, she said, she believes that is more humane than sterilizing cats, then abandoning them throughout the city.
Britton said the cat colony near her home is primarily nocturnal.
The mousers gather at a hill of dirt on the south end of the property most nights.
She said it’s common to see cats dead after they are struck by cars.
“We are paying taxes to have an animal shelter give animals shelter, not to turn around and abandon them on city streets,” Britton said.