Residents and officials in the City of Delta say something needs to be done about a growing feral cat population at Confluence Park. But differing opinions on what to do have created a cat fight between one woman and police.
For the last six years, Melissa Heinzen has come to Confluence Park to care for a colony of feral cats. She brings them food, pets them, and gets each one of them spayed and neutered. She uses her own money to do it.
"This is my passion," said Heinzen. "These are my babies and I really love them."
But city officials say there's just one problem with what she does.
"We do have ordinances and laws prohibiting this type of conduct," said Commander Roger Christian of the Delta Police Department.
According to Delta city ordinances, a person cannot have more than four pets. Officials say by doing what she does, Heinzen has taken ownership of at least 18 cats. City leash laws also prevent pets from roaming outside of personal property. Officers say her cats roam freely around public property.
According to those laws, Heinzen could be legally be cited.
"I'm going against every ordinance they have," said Heinzen.
Officials say they're not looking to pick a fight with her, but that she needs to stop feeding the cats and needs to relocate them. They say they're more than willing to help.
"That's all we're trying to do is get some compliance with ordinances we do have," said Commander Christian.
But Heinzen says she feels the city has done almost nothing to reach out to her, and that unless she continues to care for the cats, they will be killed.
"I'm probably going to be battling with the city here because I don't want my cats destroyed," said Heinzen.
Officials say that's not the case.
"Euthanizing those animals is a last resort," said Commander Christian. "That's something I don't care to do and I know the animal resource officer doesn't care to do."
Heinzen says she is trying to work with City Hall to get ordinances changed and to bring a trap, neuter, and release program to Delta. For now she says she's willing to risk getting in trouble with the law to help the animals she loves.
The city has given Heinzen 30 days to relocate the cats out of the park. Officials say they want to work with her to get as many of the cats into loving homes as they can.