HARRISON — Embattled Town Manager George “Bud” Finch defended comments he made earlier this week suggesting he was indifferent to animal welfare as taken out out of context by the media. 

A story from WGME 13, which ran in the Bangor Daily News on Friday, quoted an animal welfare advocate who said Finch told her that in his era, unwanted cats were treated with little regard by society, tied up in burlap bags and thrown off a pier. 

“I’m a cat lover,” Finch said. “I have cats. What I meant by the statements was that cats were considered mousers and not as pets.” 

The comments come from a conversation between Finch and Cat Coalition of Western Maine President Stephanie Mains, who has been trying to raise awareness about what she described as a growing problem of feral cats in the town. 

Mains’ advocacy in Harrison stems from a decision town officials made in April to stop reimbursing pet shelters for cats under their care. 

Citing large bills which subsidized residents’ decisions to surrender their animals, the town sent a letter to Responsible Pet Care in Paris, informing the no-kill animal shelter that Harrison would no longer pay the $22-per-cat fee. 

The shelter, which serves as the main source of surrendered animals in the region, charges towns subscribing to its kennels a periodic bill in return for the service of housing animals brought in by the town’s animal control officer and residents. 

After the letter, residents from the town were barred from bringing in domesticated cats, according to shelter president, Shirley Boyce. 

According to Boyce, a town’s bill from the shelter has two parts: a flat, $1 per-resident fee for each town to cover dog surrenders, and a $22 fee for each cat dropped off during the year by town residents.

According to Responsible Pet Care Treasurer Sally Brown, until March, when the payments stopped, Harrison had been billed for 14 cats, or $308. Its flat, yearly fee is around $2,800.

Finch said the precedent — not the price tag — was the concern. While with some shelter fees, such as those for dogs, the town is required to pay under state law, others — like the cat sheltering fee — is not mandated by Augusta and has been deemed by selectmen as an allocation to a charity. 

“We’re doing everything we’re supposed to, but maybe not what everyone likes,” he said.

Finch differentiated between domesticated and wild cats, noting that the town will continue to direct Animal Control Officer Robert Larrabee to round up feral cats.

“But if you, the individual person, take your cat up there, why should the town pay for it?” Finch asked.

The stance has drawn critics.

Mains said Friday she was “appalled” by Finch’s comments, which struck her as ignorant. 

Her group provides spaces for adult feral cats, which can be difficult to domesticate, and tries to see to it that the kittens of feral cat colonies — such as the 47 trapped on a farm in Harrison earlier this year — are brought to the shelter. 

“We’re not trying to overburden shelters or towns, but we think it’s only fair they do their part,” Mains said. 


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