On Aug. 18, township officials announced that a feral kitten located in a yard on Briarcliff Road in the Heritage Village neighborhood was determined to have rabies.
The following day, several residents who live next to or near the location where the kitten was discovered used the public comment portion of the Evesham Township Council meeting to voice their concerns regarding what they believe is ongoing health and safety issue at the residence.
Briarcliff Road and Heritage Village resident Colleen Zeukowski said she lives next to where the rabid kitten was found, and the neighbor at the property feeds between 20 and 30 stray, feral cats outside in the back and front yards of the residence on a daily basis.
According to Zeukowski, in the past when she’s complained about the situation to animal control, she was told that as long as her neighbor has the cats licensed and vaccinated, the neighbor could keep them.
However, Zeukowski said with such a large number of animals, she has no way of knowing which cats are safe pets and which are not.
“I can’t tell which cats are hers and which aren’t, there are so many cats,” Zeukowski said. “I’ve complained because the excrement alone is a health issue, and now we have a rabies issue in the neighborhood.”
Evesham Township Manager William Cromie said, as a precaution, the county health department took the position that all the cats might be infected, and a short-term solution was already in the works where the cats are being captured and taken to a shelter to determine their licensing and health status.
“They have instructed us — and the animal control person is a contractor on our payroll — we instructed that vendor to put out traps, and the property owner there knows this and we’re going to try and capture and take to the shelter every single cat that we can,” Cromie said.
Another resident to speak at the meeting about the cats was John Hartzell, who said the hardships caused by the cats were getting out of hand.
He cited area rabbits and robins being killed by the cats, other animals such as groundhogs and gofers possibly becoming infected and having to constantly clean outside furniture to protect his granddaughter who is highly allergic to cat dandruff.
“My concern is now my grandchildren,” Hartzell said. “They play out on the front lawn, they play in the backyard, and as long as this thing is going on right now with the rabid animal out there, I’m concerned, because when they get rabid, they get aggressive and they go for you.”
Another resident concerned about the safety of her family was Gina Groves, whose daughter was scratched by one of the cats.
“I had to take her to the emergency room last night,” Groves said. “She had to go through the rabies vaccinations. It was a very excruciating process. It’s not over. It’s a two-week-long process.”
Deputy Mayor Ken D’Andrea sympathized with the residents’ concerns and said the township had to look at the situation from both a short-term perspective, removing the animals, and a long-term perspective, possibly creating an ordinance to prevent residents from keeping so many animals.
“Short term is capture, care for, and then the second thing is analyze our books what we can do as a township and get that done as quickly as possible, whether it be an ordinance or just a simple change in something that can be on our books at another council meeting,” D’Andrea said.