ANDOVER – Town officials are giving away cats. About 100 of the friendly felines of all colors and sizes.

They’re also asking for donations of dry cat food to feed the tame animals after discovering them in a resident’s remotely-located home.

At Tuesday afternoon’s selectmen’s meeting, Road Commissioner Marshall Meisner asked why selectmen took it upon themselves to care for the felines rather than dispose of them.

“I own two cats and I’m responsible for them,” Meisner said. “I don’t think owning 100 cats is being responsible.”

While Selectwoman Joan Carney agreed, she said that the cats’ elderly owners are convalescing at a nursing home and hospital.

“If these cats aren’t going to be fed, they’re going to roam away all over town,” she said. “They are gorgeous, beautiful cats and we’d prefer to give them away than have them destroyed. But it’s a public health hazard and the town has a legal right to gather those animals up and destroy them or give them away.”

Carney, who said she didn’t realize cats can carry AIDS or leukemia, said she had been feeding and watering the cats for the past week.

“They’re in every color you can imagine. There’s one white, one with a beautiful chocolate face that I would take home if my mother would let me. But I’m not five years old,” Carney said.

If the town isn’t able to give the cats away, Selectmen Chairwoman Trudy Akers suggested putting a lien on the elderly couple’s home to cover the costs to put the animals to sleep.

Carney said it costs $20 a cat to have them put down, $14 each to have them picked up and $1.15 per pound to have them cremated. But the town only has $1,800 in its animal control officer account and needs to hire a new officer.

Neither Akers, Carney nor Selectwoman Laura Hutchins knew just how many cats were at the house, living inside its walls, ceilings and even in the dog house. But they estimated that there were between 40 and 100 cats after learning that two litters had recently been found at the residence.

The board declined to name the cats owners or say where the house was located.

“We just can’t let this go on. Legally, where these cats are a health threat and where there’s 70 cats now, there’s going to be 170 next year,” Carney added.

For information about getting a cat, contact the town office at 392-3302.

In other business, the board agreed to hire Bethel animal control officer Ozzie Hart on an interim basis until they could review town policies with the lone applicant for the vacant position – Duayne Jodrey of Andover.

Danny Peare, Andover’s former animal control officer, resigned as of Monday, but said he wouldn’t leave the town in the lurch, Carney added. However, cats aren’t the only problem with which town officials are struggling. Loose dogs like the one that has routinely attended the local church are another concern.

“We didn’t mind the dog coming to church every Sunday, but people with other dogs were upset about it,” Hutchins added.

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