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Midway cats are out of the bag

Stray animal cat on a city street in Istanbul.
Adobe Stock
Before they're released back into Midway, stray cats will be vaccinated against rabies, sterilized and tagged on their ears for identification purposes.

Midway is taking a creative approach to reduce overcrowding at the county animal shelter.

Feral cats: Furry friends? Foes? Freeloaders?

The Heber Valley Animal Shelter is overcrowded, and local governments are getting creative in an attempt to help out. This week, Midway decided to let wild cats roam.

Felines and other stray animals are overrunning the shelter. With no room at the inn, the shelter has had to decide between euthanizing the animals already there or refusing to accept new ones.

One nearby city has found another solution.

On Tuesday, the Midway City Council passed an ordinance aimed to help out. When animal control officers pick up cats off the street, they can now release them after five business days near where they were found. The ordinance requires the cats be in good health and to “not pose a threat to health or safety” of people or pets in town.

During the five-day quarantine, the shelter must sterilize and vaccinate cats against rabies. The shelter will identify those it’s detained by an earmark to avoid picking up the same animals repeatedly.

The initiative follows a model outlined in state code called the “community cat program.”

Council members said they had heard mixed feedback about whether the cats caused trouble in the community.

Overall, they determined the nuisance of free-roaming cats didn’t outweigh the request by the animal shelter. The council voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance, but not before they clarified that bobcats and mountain lions won’t be eligible for the catch and release program.

Earlier in the meeting, the council considered another animal-related request. Wasatch County proposed a ban on leaving animals in cars with the windows up when the temperature is above 70 degrees. The council voted against that, but said it should look into how to keep animals safe in cars in the future.

A full recording of the meeting is available on the Midway City Facebook page.

Ben Lasseter reports for KPCW in Wasatch County. Before moving to Heber City, Ben worked in Manti as a general assignment newspaper reporter and editor.