ABERDEEN, S.D. — Stray and feral cat populations can cause major problems for small, rural towns if left unchecked.
Mike Olson, of Aberdeen, is contracted by many towns to provide code enforcement services.
"They carry diseases. What I see typically happen is there's an animal lover in a town and they tend to invite them onto their property and feed them or leave their home open to them, so they can come and go as they please," Olson explained. "Then they multiply more and more. The more they multiply, the more disease and infection."
Olson said he gets called when it becomes a health issue.
"Most often I end up condemning that house, which means the tenant or owner has to leave until the property is cleaned up," Olson said.
Olson said he's been to properties in the area that have anywhere from 15 to 45 cats.
Gettysburg Police Chief Dave Mogard said in the last few years, he's trapped and rehomed over 100 cats.
The cats were caught in live traps and brought to farms in need of mouse control, he said.
"There's not quite as many left this year. We don't destroy any cats, we rehome them," Mogard said.
"A lot of them are just feral cats. The population has been uncontrolled for so long. They do a lot of damage to people's houses that own cats, they tear up people's gardens — I got a lot of complaints of cats going under people's deck," Mogard said.
Taking the time to rehome the animals is something that's important to Mogard.
"I think of it this way — I think of them as a family pet," he said.
Figuring out what to do with stray or feral cats also hits close to home for Julie Bruckner, Conde finance officer.
"It does seem to be a widespread problem and we always encourage people to spay or neuter their pets and just be responsible pet owners. That isn't going to solve the issue of those cats who don't have homes. I feel sorry for the animals who don't have some kind of home."