Feeding feral felines illegal

By Stephanie Wilson
Posted 2/21/24

WHEATLAND — “There is a cat feeding problem in Wheatland,” Chief of Police Doug Willadsen said. “Up until the new ordinance, these animals were not impounded.

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Feeding feral felines illegal


WHEATLAND — “There is a cat feeding problem in Wheatland,” Chief of Police Doug Willadsen said. “Up until the new ordinance, these animals were not impounded. We don’t want our officers getting bitten or scratched,” he added. Although, in the past, officers rounding up stray animals — specifically feral cats — have been injured in the process which leads to the necessity of rabies shots and/or other medical attention. “Feral cats do not have any of the normally required shots, and we have live traps available.” The live traps are not only for the use of the officers, but for private citizens who may have experienced unwanted feline activity on their property, or place of business. According to Willadsen, the feral cats will defecate, urinate, or bring disease onto a property or possibly spread disease if they have come in contact with humans or pets. “The live trap allows a concerned citizen to humanely capture the animal,” he added. When an animal is thus captured in the live trap, it is up to the citizen to decide how to relocate it. While there are not animal adoption agencies in Wheatland, there are other communities in the southeast Wyoming region that operate shelters, adoption or animal control services for lost or stray cats and other animals. “If a cat has a tag, collar, ear tattoo or chip, we do our best to get in touch with its owner, and then release the animal to them. It is a completely different situation if there is a cat with no registered identification.”  

“We have issued warnings,” Willadsen said. “We don’t really want to give citations to people who believe they are doing something good or compassionate. However, it is illegal, and one of the issues is also a littering problem.” Willadsen explained that when an individual is tossing bags of cat food out of their vehicle window, or placing open bags or cans of food in public areas such as parking lots or on to someone’s private property, it is considered littering. “We have seen this problem everywhere. Alleys, parking lots and private property complaints all over town,” he said. 

“I’m sure the individuals care about these animals, but others don’t want to deal with the nuisance of feces and urine on their property.” Additionally, bites and scratches can become infected, and disease can potentially spread, such as rabies. Feeding keeps the population high, and the cats often live longer than they would in a wild area. A dependency on human intervention is created in the cat population, and the natural instinct to hunt mice and birds becomes greatly reduced. 

As the police department does not have a designated animal control officer, it is up to those on duty to maintain and manage control of the feeding issue. “We really encourage the public in helping the department and not to be hesitant to call us if they are aware of it. We used to have an animal shelter here in Wheatland, but it is no longer in operation.” Willadsen said. “The live traps can be picked up at the police department. They are free, with a refundable $50.00 deposit if the trap comes back to us undamaged,” he explained. “The traps have a 10-day-use limit, but if an individual needs it longer, we can accommodate that. Then it is the individual’s responsibility to handle what happens to the animal. If the animal has a tag or collar, the police department will handle that. We are not advocating a certain procedure when capturing a feral cat, but there are ordinances about registering a pet,” Willadsen said.

 “Your dog or cat must have a current license, a collar or tag, and the embedded chip or tattoo are optional.” Willadsen went on to say that they want to be compassionate and have given lots of chances for people to discontinue this practice on their own. “It has to stop,” he concluded.  For those interested in what the ordinance outlines in this area:

9.15.010 on littering states:  A person is guilty of littering if he/she places, throws, scatters, or deposits garbage, debris, refuse or waste material, objects or substances, including abandoned or junk vehicles, upon the property of another. Operators of motor vehicles are responsible under this section for the disposition or ejection of garbage, debris, or other material from the vehicle, while the vehicle is being operated on the roads or highways within the Town of Wheatland. [Ord. 675 § 1, 1999]

9.15.020 Violation, penalty states: Littering is punishable by a fine of not less than $100.00 and not more than $750.00. The court may suspend all or part of the sentence imposed under this chapter and require the person convicted of littering to perform up to 40 hours of labor in the form of cleaning litter debris from public roads, parks, or other public areas or facilities. [Ord. 675 § 2, 1999.]