Infestation Of Cats An Uphill Battle
Des Plaines, Cook County, Illinois
Infestation Of Cats An Uphill Battle To Cope With
By CRAIG ADAMS
A Des Plaines mobile home park that was the site of a kitten-killing incident last August is still "infested" with cats, but slowly improving along with two neighboring parks.
"They're like cockroaches," said Guy Johannson Field Supervisor for Cook County Animal Control. "It's a breeding ground for wild feral cats."
Johannson could not estimate how many cats live in Oasis Mobile Home Park, 7500 Elmhurst Rd. "They live underneath people's trailers," he said. "They're sick and full of fleas. Nobody gives them any veterinarian care."
Johannson estimated that his department removes between 500 and 600 cats each year from Oasis. "Since 1970, we haven't even made a dent," he said. "They just multiply."
Oasis is not the only mobile home park with a cat problem. Felines are plentiful at adjacent Touhy Mobile Home Park, 400 W. Touhy Ave. as well.
"There's just a cyclone fence between the parks," Johannson explained. Touhy, Oasis, and the much smaller Des Plaines parks abut at the intersection of Touhy Avenue and Elmhurst Road. The three parks hold about 2,000 mobile homes, Johannson said.
"People move in, move out, and leave the cats behind," Johannson complained. He added it's not a local problem. "All trailer parks, they all have a cat problem," he said.
At least one resident of Touhy tries to help solve the problem. Joe Bagdonas said, "I've taken quite a few out of here."
Bagdonas explained he saw some female cats that had multiple litters of kittens. "I got them spayed," he said. He also took 15 wild cats from the park. "I took them up to an animal hospital," he said. "They were able to get all but one adopted." Bagdonas had the last cat spayed and returned her to the mobile park.
Bagdonas added he's not the only person in the park working on the cat issue. "There are a lot of other residents here involved in trying to care for these cats: feed them and shelter them and things. There's been a group that's came around to try to pick up those that are left."
Bagdonas said Cook County Animal Control is also a steady presence in the park. "They come by and check on loose dogs that are running around," he said, adding, "Cats are more difficult for them to catch."
Johannson confirmed that statement. "We can control the dog problem; we can get them," he said.
Johannson explained Animal Control officers take the captured cats to an animal shelter. "Whatever they do to them, they do to them," he said. "I don't know and I don't want to know."
He added that the problem lies as much with the human residents of the park as the feline ones. "There are elderly people in there that have nothing better to do than put food out for them," he said. "If they'd stop feeding the cats, we could keep them under control." He said some residents put out entire bags of food for the cats, an action that also attract skunks, possums, raccoons, and other wild animals.
In addition to adding to the cat population, feeding the cats can bring on legal problems. "They get tickets for feeding," Johannson said. "If you feed or harbor an animal, you are considered the owner of the animal," he warned. The county can hold residents of the park who feed cats liable for those cats' vaccinations and veterinary care as well as any damage they cause to other mobile homes.
Bagdonas agrees the problem is human in origin. "People would drive by and just dump an animal off here. That's how we got overpopulated." However, he claims problems also stem from residents not properly caring for their pets. "It would be nice if those who own their pets keep them inside, especially those that aren't spayed or neutered," he said. Bagdonas said a family in the park bought four rabbits for their children at Easter. "When they got tired of them, they just turned them loose," he said. "If you have a pet, care for it, keep it inside as a pet; don't let it roam around the neighborhood."
Both men agree the problem is slowly improving. "It was a lot worse," Bagdonas said.
"It's getting a little better," Johannson added. "It's us getting rid of all the cats."
Attention turned to the cat problem at Oasis when a resident there received a 180-day jail sentence for killing a kitten. A jury found William Buske, 34, guilty of aggravated cruelty to an animal for picking up a 9-week-old kitten named Orangie that was on his property, throwing it to the ground, and kicking it down the street. Buske's lawyer explained that Buske was remodeling and rehabbing the mobile home he was living in but cats were constantly destroying the property. Orangie was just one of the hundreds of cats who came onto Buske's property, his lawyer added.