Dash, one of the barn cats living at Westwind Barn since 2003, won human admirers with his friendly temperament despite his feral lifestyle.

In Los Altos Hills, California this week, City Manager Carl Cahill ordered the removal of the barn cats that have lived at the city-managed Westwind Community Barn for the past six years. According to City Clerk Karen Jost the action was taken for health and safety reasons.

When barn members and neighbors recently observed town public safety officer Steve Garcia setting traps, they expressed concern, and justifiably so: barn cats and other feral cats taken to the Palo Alto animal shelter are routinely euthanized, a policy that’s consistent with many other shelters.

I like animals, I like seeing them around up there, Los Altos Hills resident and longtime barn-member Linda Swan said. The cats were originally imported to help control the rodent population.

Theres a lot of grain up there people feed their horses, she said. When horses eat, they spill it all around. Each stall probably has something thats attractive to rats.

Now that we have a pro(fessional) exterminator taking care of the rat issue, (the cats) have no purpose, City Councilman Jean Mordo said. We love cats, all of us, so we are concerned. He said the trapped cats were returned to the animal rescue group from which they had been adopted in 2003.

Six years ago, Friends of Westwind members adopted four barn cats from Humanimal Connection, a rescue group that rehomes displaced feral cats. Volunteers provide cat food to supplement their vermin diet. Although the cats have maintained good health, Humanimal Connection is available to fund any needed vet care.

The three cats trapped thus far are being held at the home of Humanimal Connection volunteer Judy Baker. Were still holding out hope that they can eventually go back to Westwind, Baker said.

Failing that, she said she would pursue finding another barnlike setting to place them.

Im really so surprised, because when we put them there we thought, God, what a wonderful home for cats, Baker said, noting that it wasnt surprising the cats had been unable to keep the barn complex free of rodents. Its a big barn. Itd be hard for (a few) cats to keep up with that whole place.

The Portola Valley Training Center has maintained and fed barn cats since 1990, according to Janet Neff, a volunteer who has fed the Westwind cats since meeting them while riding there.

Currently, residents and local animal rescue volunteers are negotiating with the city council and Cahill to return the cats to the barn and establish volunteer oversight of the felines. Let’s hope they can be returned to their home very soon.

Although there is no information on the means by which the exterminators are dispatching the barn vermin, Mr Cahill and his colleagues should consider NATURAL extermination. This could easily be accomplished in conjunction with a feline extermination force by encouraging barn owls on the property. Barn owls are voracious hunters, especially while raising their young. Each pair of barn owl parents will raise six to eight young at a time, and each nestling will devour an average of six mice/rats/gophers per night while growing into fledglings. This natural method of vermin control does not introduce poison into the ecosystem, which is important. Rats and mice who are poisoned in turn poison the predators who may take advantage of a struggling, dying rat and ingest the poison.

If you wish to contact Mr Cahill to ask him to rescind his eviction notice, here’s his contact info:

Carl Cahill, City Manager

Address:
Town Hall Offices
26379 Fremont Road
Los Altos Hills CA 94022

E-mail:ccahill@losaltoshills.ca.gov
Telephone: (650) 947-2514
Fax: (650) 941-3160

[PHOTO CREDIT: LosAltosOnline.com]