Woman needs a place for cats

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 29, 2002

Mary Drayer has a dilemma.

The Brownsdale woman has run Cats Off Broadway, a cat rescue and adoption program for years and usually shelters the animals with foster families.

However, during the past couple of weeks, she had run short of temporary homes, and was forced to improvise with an increasing number of cats. Her solution? She rented a garage in Austin and housed 25 of her rescued cats there, intending it as a very temporary animal shelter. She spent hours each day with them, cleaning cages, playing with them, making sure they were properly vaccinated and wormed, and making sure everyone was given the proper food for whatever their medical and health needs required.

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It wasn't an ideal situation, by any means, she said. But it was one that was working.

Until someone filed a complaint with the Austin Police Department and Drayer was told city ordinance only allows residents to have three cats per household. The animals would have to move, unless she got a license to run an animal shelter within the city limits, officers told her.

Now she's devastated and not sure what she's going to do. "I've been rescuing little animals all my life. When I worked at the Humane Society in Rochester and at the Mower County Humane Society, people would call me quite often and ask if I could take cats they had found and couldn't keep and they've never stopped," she said. "I finally decided I had to start my own adoption program … for people who can't get into the Humane Society and don't want to take them to the pound.

"I had 135 adoptions last year and only had five cats left in January. But then, in the spring, it just started exploding. I never intended to have them under the same roof -- not like this. I have applied for a kennel license and for non-profit status. I'm trying to do everything legally … I don't want anybody to shut me down."

Law enforcement officers can empathize with her situation. "We're between a rock and a hard place," said police Capt. Curt Rude. "She's really got her heart in the right place … (and) I respect and admire her position. The cats are well-cared for and in good health. We like to see these cats being taken care of, but it's a clear violation of the ordinance to have this many. We don't enact the ordinances, we just enforce them."

Rude said he's been trying to help Drayer come up with a solution to her predicament and says she may be able to get a variance in the city ordinance to run a shelter within Austin. He said she may be able to find assistance in the county, where there is no limit on the number of animals someone can have.

Drayer also hopes to be able to put all her rescued cats under one roof, in a proper shelter -- preferably someplace with air-conditioning, she said. In the meantime, Drayer said she is desperately looking for more foster homes and permanent homes. "I would love to see these little guys get homes," she said.

Amanda L. Rohde can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at :mailto:amanda.rohde@austindailyherald.com