Fate of Feral Stray Refocuses Cat Colony’s Community Message

BLYTHEWOOD – Since 2008, feral cats have had a safe haven in Blythewood as part of Homeward Bound Pet Rescue’s cat colony near Blythewood Road, but the recent fate of one unfortunate feline has the program’s director concerned about community perception.

“Having a managed cat colony is actually a good thing,” said Cam Chappell, who runs the animal rescue and adoption program. “These cats have been spayed or neutered and have had one round of shots. They help keep un-managed cats out of the area, keeping the population of stray animals down.”

Earlier this month, one of Chappell’s cats was trapped in Cobblestone by Richland County and taken to the City of Columbia’s animal shelter. Although a city ordinance mandates that animals be kept for five days before being euthanized, Chappell’s stray was put down in less than 24 hours.

Marli Drum, Animal Services Superintendent for the City of Columbia, said that while the ordinance does require a five-day holding period, animals can be put down sooner than that if they are injured, dangerous or if space is needed.

“Unfortunately, we had a handful of cats that came in that day (Feb. 4) and we didn’t have enough space,” Drum said. “This is a very unfortunate incident. It is heart-sickening to have euthanized one that we could have gotten out alive.”

Drum also said her staff did not notice the tell-tale ear tip, which managed feral cats bear. Chappell explained that cats in managed facilities like hers have the tip of one of their ears – usually the left ear – cropped off when they are spayed or neutered and have their shots as a sign to prevent just such unnecessary euthanizations as occurred Feb. 5. But Drum said that even if her staff had noticed the tip, it is rare that anyone comes and picks up ear-tipped cats.

“Sadly, this is one that someone wanted back,” Drum said.

Chappell said the cat was trapped by a new property manager at Cobblestone who she said was enforcing company policy. She has since spoken with Cobblestone management and said she hopes to be able to keep the colony at its current location.

Chappell said she has also received assurances from Steve Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia, that the five-day hold policy will be observed in the future. Drum also added that it was their goal to become a no-kill shelter within the next five years.

“Citizens need to get behind it,” Drum said, “and become a no-kill community. Spay and neuter your pets, and instead of buying pets from a pet store or a breeder, adopt from the shelter.”