Yes, he can trap your cats (Video)

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Julie Sion still scours a wooded area where the Guadalupe River and U.S. Highway 77 intersect for any sign of her beloved red Persian.

"I don't think he's dead. I just think he's a survivor," she said of the cat she adopted from an abusive home.

Sion didn't know at first that her neighbors, Marvin Brunner, 80, and his wife, Faye, 77, legally trapped Laz after he wandered into their backyard in the Highland Hills II subdivision in mid-March.

And it's not the first time the Brunners have exercised their right to do so.

They have snagged quite a few felines during their 17-year Victoria residency by setting up a nonlethal metal trap in the middle of their large vegetable garden.

They say the cats are not only pesky but also are ruining their produce with feces that researchers at Texas A&M University told them could carry parasites and bacteria such as E. coli.

Detective Christina Tate of the Victoria Police Department said where the Brunners went wrong was by dumping the domesticated animals out in the country, which could be considered animal cruelty or abandonment.

She said the Victoria County District Attorney's Office declined to pursue any charges against the Brunners because there was no evidence they dropped the cats off at a major roadway.

"It's kind of the owners' fault for not keeping the cats off their property," Tate said, "but I have instructed them to call animal control from now on."

Faye Brunner said they resorted to dropping the cats off in the country after they were bombarded with anonymous hate mail for taking the pets to the pound. They figured the cats, who urinate on their patio furniture, vomit and attack the nearby songbirds, could fend for themselves. And when a friend told them some might be declawed, they stopped the practice.

"I feel bad about that," Faye Brunner said, "but they're going to die there (in the pound), too. They'll be euthanized in a few days if their owners don't pick them up."

"I'm Christian, and I'm not going to lie to you. ... I like pets. Every one of us cried when our dog Queeny died," Marvin Brunner said.

He hopes his actions will show people they need to be more responsible, and he encouraged both commissioners and city council members to raise impoundment fees at the 122 Perimeter Road facility.

"Everyone wants to own a pet, but they always want someone else to take care of it," he said.

Joe Lopez, Victoria County's chief animal control officer, said there is a $20 fee to pick up a spayed or neutered cat and a $60 fee if they are not.

He said his staff, which responds on a complaint basis, checks the cats during intake for a microchip or a rabies tag but finds one only about 3 percent of the time.

Last year, the county picked up roughly 1,500 cats.

"We haven't run into that (animal cruelty) in a long, long time. ... A lot of the time, I think people don't want to see the cats trapped" because they think it hurts them, Lopez said.

He said most traps are 2 1/2-by-3-foot wire cages anyone can purchase at an area feed store. The county used to set them out in areas where there was a large feral cat population but stopped about five years ago because they were continually being found kicked and ruined.

The Brunners' trap is designed to close as soon as a cat takes the bait - some dry cat food.

Robert Steed, a financial adviser who also lives in the Highland Hills II neighborhood, said the Brunners are creating their own problem by leaving out food, such as tuna, which he estimated the animals could smell from miles away.

"That's like throwing drugs into your yard and wondering why you have addicts out there," he said.

His cat, Hercules, went missing years ago, but he only recently realized the Brunners might have been involved.

Tye Cook, who has also lived in the area for about three years, said he luckily found his cat, Kasey, at the pound.

After the Brunners trapped her, he said he had to call a vet to administer some injections and revive her. He thinks she was poisoned.

"Obviously, the cat got a hold of something, and I don't think she did it on her own," Cook said.

O.C. Garza, a spokesman for the city of Victoria, wasn't aware of any city council discussions regarding beefing up laws about cats, but that could change.

After a slew of pit bull attacks, city council passed a dangerous dog ordinance last summer.

Garza said an ordinance involving cats may not have the same kind of momentum.

Sion, meanwhile, is hoping Laz, short for Lazarus, will take a cue from Hansel and Gretel and realize the scraps of fabric she's littered the ground with lead him home.

She said if Laz has to die as an example, like Jesus, or to save the other cats Marvin Brunner may encounter, then so be it.

"He's got a hole in his heart," she said of her neighbor. "He needs help."

"There is some things in life that are simply wrong, and this is one of them," Steed added. "I hope we can get the message across somehow."