Court determines felines causing health problems
Mary McCune has a soft spot for cats. People began dropping off unwanted felines at her business and home years ago knowing she would feed them, but businesses nearby contend the situation has gotten out of hand. As the cats have multiplied, so have the problems associated with them.
The situation was settled in court on Monday when Judge Richard Walker ordered McCune to stop feeding the feral cats on her property. There were approximately 75 cats involved, according to court documents. The court order, which was agreed to and signed by McCune, also ordered Clay County animal control to remove all stray cats from McCune’s property. She will be allowed to keep her two personal housecats, which have been fully vetted.
One businesse located next to McClune’s Garage, is Hayesville Pro Hardware. Owner Gary Reffit, who filed a complaint for removal of the cats, said the the over-run of feline has become a nuisance and a health hazard.
“They’ve caught 150 cats in two years. That’s an infestation. I’ve stood and counted as many as nine cats on my mulch. They’re inbred and they’re diseased,” Reffit said. “We had some caught on our property. Part of one cat’s face was gone from disease.”
Reffitt, who says he has known McCune for years, said the Clay County Health Department was approached first. “It’s been a concerted effort between the health department and the sheriff’s office,” he said. “I’m sorry it came down to this.”
In January, a misdemeanor criminal summons was signed by Magistrate Michael Anderson that claimed McCune was in violation of county health codes and animal control ordinance. The summons read, in part, “unlawfully and willfully did by keeping approximately 75 cats at her business, John McCune’s garage, and allowing them to roam freely about the neighborhood. The cats defecate and urinate on neighbors’ property causing a health hazard for business owners as well as customers.”
The summons said McCune was advised both verbally and in writing by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. McCune said on Tuesday, “I feel terrible. They never came here and said anything.” She added, “I’ve kept it clean. There were never 75 cats. Maybe 25 or 30.”
McCune said traps were set right away and she asked the officer to place the cages in a place so she does not have to listen to them crying all night while she lays in bed. “It’s breaking my heart,” she said. “I was ordered not to feed the cats anymore. Some are climbing up and looking in my windows and crying.”
McCune moved to Clay County from Clearwater, Fla. and bought her business in 1979. “When I came here, the rats in this building were bigger than the cats I’ve been feeding,” McCune said. “People dropped cats off. I haven’t had rats or mice since. I’ve spent thousands of dollars taking care of sick and injured cats, but I cannot afford to get all of them fixed. I can’t help but feed them.”
Sheriff Vic Davis said animal control officer Stanley Robinson has talked to McCune. “Stanley begged her not to feed them,” Davis said“It’s been an ongoing problem. They’re feral cats. The county trapped about 150 last time. There were so many Valley River didn’t want any more.”
“Conservatively, there are over 100 now,” Davis said. “They’re urinating and it’s an extreme health hazard. They can get feline flu and spread it. We’ll trap the animals and take them to Valley River Humane Society.” He said everything will be done humanely.
“I am glad it ended this way rather than having to testify,” Reffit said of the civil case. “I have no ill feelings toward her whatsoever.”
“I’ll be 90 years old on Monday, May 2,” McCune said. “I tried to be nice. I’m grateful for my business and I’m still running my store. It breaks my heart, but not my spirit.”
Sheriff Davis asked people not to abandon animals anywhere. Valley River Humane Society brings a truck to Hayesville Ingles parking lot every week. Unwanted cats and dogs may be brought to the truck every Thursday from 10-11 a.m. For other drop-off or pet adoption information, call (828) 837-2304.