By Jason Allen

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The city of Fort Worth is trying to get a handle on a growing animal problem.  The city uncovered two cases of animal attacks in the same neighborhood where a rabid cat bit a resident last week.

The cases are all near I-35W and Highway 114 in the far north end of the city.

Last week’s rabies case was the first one involving a cat in Fort Worth in a decade.

While going door to door to notify residents, code officers learned of another person bitten by a cat and a dog bitten by a skunk.  “It’s just a very unusual circumstance,” said code compliance director Brandon Bennett. “Not something we see every day.”

The city only has about a dozen confirmed cases of rabies in animals each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control Texas had 20 cats test positive for rabies in 2010.

The attacks are happening right as the city begins an effort to find a way to address the feral cat population.  Three public meetings are scheduled starting Tuesday.

About 60-percent of the 5,000 cats that come into city shelters each year are feral.  Most are unadoptable and have to be euthanized.  The city has been looking for a way to improve its live release rates.  “They’re not adoptable because they’re feral, they’re wild, they scratch, they bite,” Bennett said.

Fort Worth has allowed volunteers to run pilot experiments in Trinity Park and near TCU.  Volunteers trap, neuter, vaccinate and release the cats again.  In exchange the city does not remove them from the colonies that have developed.

Bennett said some argue the colonies are good because they keep cats in one place, and keep the rodent population in check.  Although he expects good debate at the meetings from those who see the animals as a nuisance and a public health threat.

Bennett said there is no preconceived idea on how to approach the issue.  The plan is to take feedback at the meetings and have a proposal ready by the first part of 2012.

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