Citizen suffering from health problems due to cat dander
By Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

In an emotional plea to the Burns City Council, Cheryl Jakubowski asked that the city do something about the feral cat problem.

Jakubowski, who lives on West Madison, said she has asked the city to address the problem before and nothing has been done. She explained that her husband is very allergic to cats and has no immune system and the cats are causing him severe medical problems. “He’s lost 45 pounds in the last three months. They’re killing him,” she said.

She asked the city to put an ordinance back in, if there was one that dealt with cats, and remove feeding stations. The Jakubowskis were trapping the cats and re-locating them out of town until they were told by law enforcement that they couldn’t do that. “How do we dispose of them?” Jakubowski asked.

Beth Geddes of the East Adams area said the feeding stations in that part of town are attracting skunks and, “The smell has been horrible this summer.”

City Manager (CM) Don Munkers said the only restrictions in the city ordinances state that a resident can have two feral cats and there is nothing about trapping them. He acknowledged that there is a problem in the city and asked for input on solutions.

The Save-A-Stray facility neighbors Jakubowski’s residence and has been cited as a source of the problem in the past, but Munkers said the facility is immaculate and the animals are well-cared for, so he didn’t feel those cats were causing the problems.

Jakubowski disagreed, and said the problems began when the Save-A-Stray program moved in two years ago. “The dander blows over. We are due west and that’s the way the wind blows. It is those cats,” she said. “My husband can’t eat and is sick all the time. We’re going to see a lawyer next week.”

Councilor Bill Renwick noted that the feral cats are a public health issue and the city needs to act on it.

Brent Drury was in attendance as he had some concerns about the American Legion not being able to place 32 flags on the new cemetery fence for holidays as they did with the old fence.

Mayor Craig LaFollette said the flags were part of the discussion when the city was planning to get a new fence, and they figured they could just put the flag holders back on the new fence. However, the new fence, even though it’s constructed of industrial-strength aluminum, doesn’t have the rigidity to support 32 flags waving in the wind. “We got the fence and it’s different, so we’ll have to find a solution,”LaFollette said. “It is very important to have the flags there. We don’t have the answer yet, but we’re working on it.”

One option discussed was putting concrete receptacles outside the fence, but there was concern about how the flags would affect people on the sidewalk. Another option was to put the flags inside the fence, but the ground is too uneven.

Councilor Terri Presley and her husband, who is a member of the American Legion, are exploring the idea of purchasing longer poles and new flags.

Presley suggested that some council and cemetery committee members attend an American Legion meeting to discuss the issue. She added that a fund raiser could be held to help pay for the new flags and poles.

CM Munkers reported that they had received some applications for the police officer position and would be reviewing those. An interview committee would then be set up, and he should have a recommendation for the council in a couple weeks.

In other business:

• the council approved changes to the Airport Code Ordinance No. 12-821, which included bringing the fuel flowage fees into compliance with the fee schedule;

• the council discussed the Historical Commission and Advisory Committee ordinances and will vote on them at a later date;

• CM Munkers reported that the bid package for the fire suppression project at the airport was almost complete. He added that a crack in the runway hasn’t gotten any worse and they are planning to have it repaired after the fire season. The airport will be closed for about four days while the repair is done;

• Councilor Dan Hoke said the cemetery committee is putting together a tree order and hopes to plant another 12 to 15 trees this fall. They are also adding another 170 to 180 grave sites in the existing Catholic section of the cemetery;

• Cemetery committee member Jan Cupernall presented thank you cards to the Burns Public Works Department and the council for their work on the new fence.

The next council meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, at city hall.

One Response to “Burns council tangles with feral cat problem”

  1. C. Temple Says:

    I find it ironic (and perhaps mostly sad) that Harney County has gone from cattle wars to “cat” wars. Instead of working together and becoming part of the solution, neighbors are constantly at each other’s throats, bickering over cats. While I agree that unwanted pets, especially cats, are a huge problem, I do believe that TNR is the only humane way to control this. For anyone who wishes to do their homework, TNR has worked in countless larger cities and there is no reason it cannot work in Harney County. Check out a couple of examples: and for starters. However, the real problem is NOT the cats themselves but the people who take home that cute little kitten….and then never spays or neuters that cute little kitten.

    I know that one person’s rights end where another’s begin but I do wonder if things are going a little too far. There are so many other things that are much more important and could actually do some good for this community instead of tearing it apart. I just find it very sad that so much time, energy, and resources are going into something like this. I do believe Save-A-Stray is to be commended for the work that they do and for the restraint that has been shown in this on-going battle.

    I, for one, will be extremely grateful when this is over and Harney County can move on to bigger, better things…because frankly, I am sick of the “cat war.”

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