For the past decade, Carrie Trautlein has seen numerous stray cats living in her Alma Center neighborhood.
Trautlein, 67, 300 W. Main St., lives across a short alley from the Alma Center Mill. Trautlein contends the feed mill draws the feral cats, who feed on mice in the area.
“They weren’t spayed or neutered, and they started to multiply,” she said. “There are always going to be cats at the feed mill; it’s like a barn.”
Fearing that the animals could be put down, Trautlein offered to pay for spaying and neutering the animals. Over the past decade, she estimates that she paid for 25 cats to be fixed and vaccinated, at a cost of perhaps $150 each.
Now, Trautlein believes the village is punishing her for assisting the felines.
Over the course of the summer, the village of Alma Center has mailed her six citations for “restrictions on keeping dogs/cats at large,” with each citation carrying a $200 fee. She says she was surprised when the citations showed up at her door.
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“I have $1,200 worth of fines here, and it’s not right,” Trautlein said. “We should be commended for doing a community service, not condemned.”
Alma Center Police Officer David Hartl declined to comment on the case because it hasn’t gone to court yet. Hartl said the village’s attorney advised him not to comment. Each member of the Village Board also was left messages this week but didn’t return calls.
When the cats first started showing up in large numbers in 2009, Trautlein said, there were easily two dozen. Now, perhaps five remain, and they are all 10 years old or older. She maintains she is not the owner of the cats, although she does leave food and drink out for them. She didn’t bring them to the area, and they are never in her home. So she isn’t sure why she is the one getting citations.
“I have no way of knowing whose cats they are,” she said. “They are feral; you can’t even touch them.”
Trautlein said the animals “don’t hurt anything,” and she doubts they are ripping open feed bags in the mill. She pointed out that live traps have caught possums and skunks that are likely the culprits.
Trautlein is slated to appear for a court date Oct. 28 in the Jackson County Courthouse followed by a pretrial conference Nov. 19 at an area law firm. She thinks the village is unfairly picking on her. Trautlein is hoping to get help from an area animal activist who can help her in her battle with the village.
Anyone who seeks to speak with Trautlein may email her at email@example.com.