Feral cats are a significant public health problem worth $10,000 in county funds, the Plumas County Board of Supervisors decided Aug. 15.
In a decision that evoked the most board controversy in weeks, the supervisors voted four to one to fund a spay and neuter clinic scheduled for Oct. 14 in Taylorsville.
The money will come from the $7.8 million civil settlement fund the supervisors received from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for damages from the 2021 Dixie fire.
Supervisor Jeff Engel, representing the fifth district, cast the lone no vote.
“I like cats. My wife has a cat,” he said. But Engel said he considers the expenditure a gift of public funds that sets a precedence, and the county has other priorities.
“I’m dodging potholes on streets that need to be fixed. And we’ve got employees that need and deserve raises,” he added.
“I’m dodging potholes on streets that need to be fixed. And we’ve got employees that need and deserve raises.”Jeff Engel, Plumas County supervisor
Feral cats left alone after the Dixie fire are a public health problem as well as an issue for people with pets, said Kevin Goss, second district supervisor representing Greenville and Indian Valley. They fight with household pets, often requiring their owners to pay for expensive veterinarian treatments, he said.
“We’re doing a service to get these feral cats under control. And it will go a long way in the rebuild effort in Greenville,” Goss said.
The funds will purchase 74 humane traps at $100 each. County Administrative Officer Debra Lucero said the county’s $10,000 will be evenly matched with money from The Almanor Foundation. The traps will be stored in the county’s animal control shelter and available for use by future spay-neuter clinics.
“You won’t be asked to spend this money again,” said Rose Buzzetta, executive director of Friends of Plumas County Animals, a Quincy-based non-profit dedicated to caring for homeless animals. The goal is to hold future clinics once a year, she said.
Volunteers aid $25,000 clinic
Buzzetta and her organization have taken responsibility for organizing the October clinic, working as volunteers with Plumas Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and other animal groups. They have raised additional funds for the total cost, estimated at $25,000, from Bread for the Journey and the Common Good Foundation.
The veterinarians who will provide the expertise are also volunteering their labor, and Doyle Rolston, who owns Indian Creek Veterinary Clinic, is providing the medical facility.
“Everyone is in support of this,” Buzzetta said.
Not quite everyone. Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns has “a staffing issue,” he said. “And you’re going to spend $10,000 on cats?”
Lucero said the feral cat population is a problem countywide, but it is most severe in Greenville. When residents evacuated to escape the 2021 Dixie fire, many left their cats behind. They quickly grew in numbers, aided by local residents who have been feeding them.
County officials will ask that they stop feeding feral cats for two days before the clinic.
Tom McGowan, representing the third district, made the motion to approve the $10,000 expenditure, with a second by Goss. First District Supervisor Dwight Ceresola hesitated before voting yes.
Engel left the supervisors’ chambers shortly after the vote.
Asked how many feral cats Plumas County has, Buzzetta said it’s unknown.