Council OKs agreement on feral cat issue at Riverside Park

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Signs in the area where a feral cat colony lives at Riverside Park asks visitors to refrain from feeding the cats.

Brownwood City Council members approved an agreement Tuesday with the Brownwood TNR (trap neuter return) group to relocate the feral cat colony in Riverside Park to a nearby city-owned area off Market Place Boulevard.

Council members approved the memorandum of understanding, which outlines multiple steps the city and TNR will take after TNR representative Tami Rodgers met last week with Mayor Stephen Haynes and City Manager Emily Crawford.

It is hoped the agreement will make the Riverside Park cat colony a test case to determine whether TNR can “successfully attain attrition or reductions in the cat population,” council members were told.

According to the agreement, Brownwood TNR will:

• Move the cat colony in Riverside Park farther away from the park area to city-owned property outside of the park. Brownwood TNR may take up to six months to gradually move the feeding station to the new location. 

• Stop organized feeding at the former cat colony locations in the park.

• Maintain the cat colony to 25 cats or less. 

• All cats will be spayed/neutered and vaccinated.

• Re-home any additional cats over the 25 through adoption, rescue, or the barn cat program.

• Keep records on the cats to determine if the colony is static or if new cats are coming in. 

• Seek to achieve colony reduction on an annual basis through attrition with a goal of achieving 20 percent attrition annually.

• Report to the city council semi-annually on the progress of maintaining and reducing the size of the colony.

The City of Brownwood will:

• Make access to the feeding area accessible off of Market Place Boulevard for TNR volunteers.

• Make efforts to prevent illegal animal dumping in Riverside Park and the cat colony by signage, public education, and trash management.

• Enforce the illegal dumping ordinance and applicable fines if violators are reported and/or caught.

• Encourage residents not to feed the cats in the park and refer them to Brownwood TNR should they desire to volunteer with their managed program. 

• Ask animal control to regularly monitor the park and remove 1) new cats that are not spayed/neutered or 2) cats found to be regularly in the playground or picnic areas of the Riverside Park.

“We don’t know whether the cats will move or whether they will not move, but Tami and her group are willing to at least try to get the cat population to move that direction further away from the people area of the park,” Mayor Stephen Haynes said.

“What we’re doing there with the Brownwood TNR group is to make Riverside Park a test case for trap neuter return — is this a solution? Will it work? Let’s concentrate on an area and see if the program can work when everybody is cooperating and concentrating on a particular area.” 

Haynes said there has also been discussion about finding a second location for a feral cat colony in the Industrial Park area.

“Apparently there is a large cat colony the industrial park,” Haynes said.

Ideally, the hope is to have “a couple of test case scenarios” to determine “can we look at a controlled environment and try to use it to control that particular region?” Haynes said.

The mayor said he doesn’t expect the agreement between the city and TNR to “solve the eminent issue overnight, but it’s a place to start.” 

Last month, a lengthy and sometimes contentious discussion about Brownwood’s feral cat population dominated a city council meeting. A colony of 20 to 25 feral cats lives at Riverside Park, which was never intended to be used as a cat sanctuary, Hayne said then.