A handful of residents in south Berkeley is making a stink about a posse of neighborhood cats and their redolent feces.
According to Fairview Street resident Aran Kaufer, the city is illegally funding a refuge for stray cats in a yellow, one-story home in a residential section of town, turning nearby lawns into feline-friendly grounds for cat urination.
Dozens of cats live or eat at 1408 Fairview St. and have little respect for property lines, neighbors say.
Kaufer, with a petition signed by 10 of his neighbors, is asking the city to reconsider subsidies it provides to the animal rescue group Home at Last, which Kaufer says is masterminding the residential shelter.
Although the owner of the 1408 Fairview St. property could not be reached for comment, volunteer staff of HAL say the Fairview cats have little to do with their nonprofit organization.
The homeowner sits on the organization’s board of directors and adopts cats from animal shelters, according to HAL managing director Allan Katz, but the Fairview cats are her “personal animals” and aren’t related to the group’s operations.
HAL’s mission is to remove animals from the city-run Berkeley Animal Shelter, where euthanization takes place, and find homes for the animals. The organization prides itself on having rescued 300 animals last year.
The city gives $25,000 annually to HAL for their animal control efforts, and HAL volunteers have recently asked the city to boost that amount to $60,000 next year.
Fairview Avenue residents want to make sure this doesn’t happen, fearing the money will make its way to 1408 Fairview St. to fund accommodations for more cats.
“It’s people from the pound bringing the cats here... It used to be as many as 15 a day,” said Fairview Street resident Pat Lewis. “We don’t want this going on. It’s not the place for it.”
The aptly-named Katz contended that cats have not been taken in at 1408 Fairview St. for more than a year. In fact, he said, HAL has helped the homeowner find new homes for 10 of her cats since December.
“The neighbors’ allegations are unsubstantiated. They obviously have some other problem with her [the homeowner] or cats,” Katz said.
City officials say there is no limit to the number of cats a homeowner can have in Berkeley and laws pertaining to the trespass of pets don’t apply to the situation on Fairview Street. The cats that live inside the Fairview Street home are legally registered, and wildcats going there to eat aren’t officially owned by the homeowner, explained Assistant City Manager Jim Hynes.
Hynes said that city health and code enforcement officials have visited the site, but no blatant breaches of the law were observed.
“The non-commercial nature of the [homeowner’s] activities means that the simple fact that a large number of cats are living at 1408 Fairview is not a formal violation of current city policy,” read a city memo.
As for HAL’s recent funding request, Hynes said other factors beyond the 1408 Fairview property will be playing into the city’s monetary decision, namely the organization’s performance.
“There might be other operations that need the additional funds,” said Hynes.
A funding decision is expected early summer, officials said.
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