I have discussed in previous posts (2/28/12, 2/10/12) my advocacy on behalf of feral cats in my community. Today, I sent Canton City Council, Mayor William J. Healy, and other city officials a letter stating my concerns. The following is a reprint of my letter in its entirety:
Dear Mayor, Council Members, and other esteemed city officials:
I am writing to you with information pertinent to the concerns about the proposed contract extension for Animal Control Officer Phil Sedlacko. As you know, I have spoken three times during the Public Speaks portion of City Council meetings on this issue. As a Canton constituent, an advocate for animals, an advocate for children, and an advocate for community development, I respectfully request that you consider my concerns with attentive consideration.
I have had the opportunity to review what I believe to be every invoice submitted for payment by Mr. Sedlacko to the city for 2011. I have spent considerable time doing this and have analyzed this information with some detail. Although my conclusions are less than scientific, I have recognized some patterns that deserve more intense scrutiny from public officials. I am requesting that public officials engage in further analysis of Mr. Sedlacko’s invoices with veterinary, feral cat rescue, wildlife rescue, and other relevant professionals to develop a better understanding of the work he does on behalf of the city.
I further request that any further contracts with Mr. Sedlacko be short-term and interim in light of the numerous concerns brought up about his lack of humane and professional conduct in his role with the city and also his role with the County Dog Warden.
Some of the patterns that emerged while I examined his invoices include:
- Domestic animals being trapped when the nature of complaints were about wildlife. My assumption before examining the invoices was that cats were removed because people complained about cats. According to Mr. Sedlacko’s invoices, however, there were 46 cats and 2 kittens trapped and removed from locations where the complainants made no complaint about cats. They complained about raccoons and other wildlife, not cats. Were these complainants even aware that cats were removed? According to the invoices, the complainants considered the wildlife as a nuisance, not the cats.
- Inhumane trapping procedures. My research about trapping protocols indicates that traps should never be left unattended, particularly in rural areas. Animals become incredibly stressed in humane traps. It is protocol to cover a trap with a sheet or some material ASAP after an animal has been trapped to reduce its stress. Also, traps left in urban areas for lengthy time periods make the animals targets for abuse and torture from nefarious humans. According to Mr. Sedlacko’s invoices, however, his process is to set traps and return the next day to retrieve the animal. This is simply UNACCEPTABLE.
- Geographic Clusters for numerous complaints. Although complaints came from all areas of the city, there were specific areas where numerous calls originated. In many cases, the same complainant called numerous times. This suggests that: 1) Trap-remove is not correcting the problem in these areas, in fact, it could be exacerbating the problem. 2) The clustered areas tend to be problem areas of other concerns for the city (crime, foreclosed homes, excessive garbage, poverty, etc.). 3) Efforts to reduce the attractiveness of these areas to cats and wildlife would help to reduce the number of calls in these areas.
There are other patterns, as well, however, these are the most obvious at this time.
Furthermore, in response to comments from Mr. Barton in a Repository article this week, I welcome the opportunity to pilot TNR in the City of Canton as a part of a plan to develop a more thorough response to animal control in Canton. Although I applaud the effort towards TNR, the proposed method of piloting an initiative, however, is flawed. You cannot do both TNR and Trap-remove in the same area with the same colony of cats. This would lead to a waste of financial resources and other problems. There would be a strong likelihood that the same cats would be trapped and neutered and then later trapped and removed. Any area piloted for TNR would have to be off limits to Trap-remove efforts to be effective.
I appreciate the fact that all of you have brought some thought and consideration to this matter. I believe, however, that it is CRITICAL for the city to begin a process of dialog with citizens, advocates and professionals IMMEDIATELY to develop a plan of response to the animal control issues in Canton. How we address the issues affects not only the animals of our community, but also our youngest citizens. Now that there is public awareness of inhumane animal treatment on the city’s behalf, our children will be watching the manner in which we address it.
I respectfully request the following actions be initiated to address the issues:
- As stated before, restrict any further contracts with Mr. Sedlacko to be short-term and interim.
- Subject the Animal Control Officer contract to a public bidding process.
- Develop a committee that includes citizens, animal rescue advocates, veterinary and public health professionals, council members and other relevant individuals to study the issue IMMEDIATELY.
- Offer time to meet with Jeff Dorson from Alley Cat Allies during the week of March 12-16 in addition to attending the Town Hall Meeting that he will be holding on Wednesday March 14th in the McKinley Room at the Stark County District Library from 6:00 – 7:30 pm.
- Include animal control discussions in other efforts on behalf of city neighborhoods, such as Weed and Seed, neighborhood organizations, Community Building Partnership of Stark County, etc.
- Review Mr. Sedlacko’s invoices as I have done and engage in an in depth analysis of the data obtained from them.
Thank you for your consideration. I welcome feedback and response.