When it comes to government spending our tax dollars, most opinions fall into one of two categories:
Spend it on this.
Don’t spend it on that.
Commissioners aren’t dumb. They know there’s a finite number of dollars to spend and it’s their job to do so wisely.
So I had a little chuckle the other day when I saw an email to the county from a resident whose idea of government spending included removing feral cats from her neighborhood.
And the resident’s indignation when a commissioner suggested the best way to rid the neighborhood of feral cats is to not feed them.
Let’s get into it.
The email was sent out in early December to commissioners from a woman who’s lived in the Inverness Highlands for three years and has a cat problem. It was clear from the start that this is an issue dear to the email writer and she wanted Something Done.
“I haven’t had much experience with this issue until recently and I am finding out that as far as Citrus County goes, we seem to be the only county that does not have a program in place to assist with getting these cats fixed and stopping this growing problem. This is not a ‘broke’ county so what gives???”
And it kind of goes downhill from there. The woman has feral cats nearby and the population is growing. We’re flush with dough, so, c’mon county, take care of it.
“I decided to take action,” she wrote. “I borrowed a cat trap and started making calls, that’s when I found out there is NO program to help me….”
“Plus, I work full-time from my home and I can’t really take off work repeatedly to try to get these cats into the one vet that will see them at $40 a pop…oh, and only on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I’m supposed to make an appointment…really?”
OK, now we’re getting into the self-righteous part of the email. Look at all I have done. Now government, it’s your turn.
“What is wrong with Citrus County that there is no program? Lake, Sumter and Marion all seem to have great programs and at no charge.”
I didn’t look that up to see if Lake, Sumter and Marion all have no-cost spay/neuter services funded by taxpayers. If that’s true, maybe we should find out how they’re able to afford that. Because, despite the writer’s statement that we’re not “broke,” I see commissioners struggle on funding decisions every other week.
“I put a post on Facebook and it got a ton of comments. It’s obvious that this problem is countywide and everyone is distressed about not knowing what to do with the feral cats.”
Now. I’m not making fun of the feral cat issue. Citrus County has feral cats and have tried all sorts of remedies over the years to reduce the population. For some people, like this email writer, it is a real nuisance.
But is it nuisance enough for the government to spend our money trying to fix?
This was Commissioner Jeff Kinnard’s response:
“Given the somewhat rural nature of our county, we have a number of feral animals that some residents frequently encounter such as hogs, peacocks, and cats. As you have discovered, if food is made available to them they will continue to show up and likely multiply. I would suggest removing any source of available food to them to minimize their presence, and damage, around your property.”
Seems logical, right? Instead of the government fixing feral cats, let’s try keeping food away and see how that works.
As expected, the writer’s response to Kinnard was not warm and fuzzy:
“This is the worst reply from a public official that I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine taking the time to write something like this to send out to a concerned citizen.”
I don’t mean to be picking on this person who wants to rid the neighborhood of annoying feral cats. She’s reaching out to the government and that’s the proper channel.
What I find somewhat incredulous is an attitude that the government’s job is to fix our ills. Maybe I’m wrong on this. Maybe folks want their taxes to pay for spay/neuter of dogs and cats.
But in a time when we see so many challenges — crumbling roads, growth, traffic, homelessness, poverty, lack of affordable housing, water quality, new animal shelter — I’m not sure removing feral cats is a taxpayer priority.
Before we ask the government to spend money on a problem, shouldn’t we try the Kinnard approach first?
Just asking the question.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.