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Catfight brewing in Afton

To collect cats or not to collect cats?

It's a question that has been weighing on the minds of Afton City Council members for a couple of weeks now.

The question is being posed to them by the Animal Humane Society shelter in Woodbury, which currently receives all the stray dogs picked up by the animal control officer.

But as to cats? Well, for a number of years now, the city has instructed Kathi Pelnar, Afton's animal control officer, not to pick up any cats about which she receives calls.

Earlier this summer, however, the Animal Humane Society informed Afton it would no longer accept its stray dogs unless the city also started collecting stray cats and other domesticated pets.

"We really want all the municipalities to do their due diligence because, if they don't, everybody suffers," explained Janelle Dixon, the CEO of the Animal Humane Society.

"The citizens have a cat population that they are frustrated with.

"The governmental agency has dissatisfied citizens and a growing cat population, because these animals typically aren't sterilized...

"Some of these animal are making it to the Animal Humane Society, and then that increases the number of animals in our facility that we are trying to place, and that drains our resources.

"It's just in everybody's interest to provide the service and do everything we can to reduce the number of stray and abandoned cats and dogs."

The main concern expressed by Afton City Council members at a work session last month centered around the cost of the service.

Dixon said the cost per cat should not exceed $130, plus tax, with this figure being paid by the animal's owner if reclaimed.

Dixon calculated that for 2007, the average number of cats recovered per city contracting with the Animal Humane Society was 14.

The Afton City Council discussed the subject again at its meeting Tuesday (Aug. 19).

City council members voted against agreeing to the Animal Humane Society's request to collect cats, determining that if and when the organization terminated the city's contract, it would direct Pelnar to deliver stray dogs to an alternative shelter in Maplewood.