A colony of 20-plus feral cats behind a Kwik Shop on Galvin Road has created a hairball of a problem for Bellevue.
Elaine and Dan Bankey of Bellevue had been caring for the colony — perhaps decades old — for about three years when they started helping trap, neuter and return them. But they were told they were running afoul of Bellevue's leash law.
Bellevue City Councilwoman Kathy Saniuk wants to fix that.
Under a proposal the council will debate today, the Humane Society would be given the task of keeping tabs on those who want to spay and neuter feral tabbies.
“They're sort of already doing it. This is just a way to regulate them and get them under control,” said Kristie Biodrowski of the Nebraska Humane Society.
The Humane Society supports the proposal, which is modeled after an Omaha ordinance.
Biodrowski said the ordinance, passed a few years ago, has started to slowly work to control the city's feral cat population of about 65,000.
The Humane Society's low-cost clinic performs about 50 feral cat surgeries per month, Biodrowski said. Other clinics also spay and neuter feral cats, though the Humane Society doesn't track those numbers.
After undergoing the surgery, a cat's ears are tipped so it's clear which have been spayed or neutered. Each cat is also generally given a rabies shot.
Dan Bankey came across the colony about three years ago. He went home and tried to entice his wife to help out.
“Oh, honey,” he said, “there's this little black kitty ...”
They named her Cocoa, and they started caring for the colony. They took the cats food and made little shelters to shield them from the cold.
Eventually they started helping with spaying and neutering efforts. They nabbed a tortoiseshell female they named Camo — “the queen of the colony” — and several others.
They thought: “We need to catch her and her last two kittens, and that'll shut down the baby-making factory pretty well,” Elaine Bankey said.
But at least one person complained about the activity. One day this summer, a police officer told Dan Bankey that what he was doing to help the colony was considered littering and dumping. If the couple continued, the officer said the Bankeys would be ticketed.
Furthermore, the city's leash law means that the people who pick up cats would technically be considered their owners and would have to abide by all the regulations in place for pets.
So the Bankeys stopped picking up cats to be neutered.
“We've been pretty frustrated all summer, because I'm watching kittens be born,” Dan Bankey said.
Biodrowski said the Bellevue site is the area's largest feral cat colony. Neighbors say the colony has survived for three decades, Bankey said.
It's not the only one, though. There are smaller colonies throughout Bellevue and the metro area, Biodrowski said.
Spaying and neutering feral cats is seen as the best way to reduce colonies and allow them to die out naturally. If a colony of feral cats is simply removed, other cats would probably move in to take their place.
Groups such as Feline Friendz help people set up traps and get the cats to the vet.
Bellevue's current ordinance “makes it very difficult for people to do the right thing,” said Larry Shackman, president of Feline Freindz.
Elaine Bankey said she'd like the council to pass the ordinance so she can get back to work on the Galvin Road colony.
“We're on a roll,” she said. “Let us finish neutering these animals so there are no more kittens out here.”
The council will hear from the public about Saniuk's proposal at tonight's meeting at 6.