Feeding stray cats is now against the law in the City of Sylvania.
City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a new ordinance that bans feeding feral cats. Mayor Craig Stough is expected to sign the measure into law on Tuesday.
Mayor Stough emphasized the law is one tool the city is providing prosecutors to use in outrageous and abusive situations and will be enforced on a complaint basis. The city is seeking the assistance of animal-welfare organizations to assist in a trap, neuter, and release program as a two-pronged approach in dealing with a increasing wild cat population.
The legislation would prohibit anyone from keeping or harboring any animal or fowl that would create “noxious, or offensive odors or unsanitary conditions which are a menace to the health.” As written, it defines a harborer or keeper of animals as one who “knowingly or recklessly feeds such animal food or water; and knowingly allows any animal to remain upon his or her property more than 24 hours.”
An initial violation would be a minor misdemeanor, carrying a fine up to $150. A second offense would be considered a fourth-degree misdemeanor, with a fine up to $250.
Officials said the new legislation also provides that the caretaker be responsible for cleaning up animal waste.
The legislation was spurred by a group of residents complaining about cat feces accumulating in their yards and a proliferation of stray cats causing a nuisance and unhealthy living environment. Last year, the city spent about $1,500 for Humane Ohio to round up a group of stray cats for spaying and neutering in hopes of controlling a growing feline population in the Vicksburg Drive neighborhood. However, residents said the problem persisted because people keep feeding cats.
Before council voted representatives from The Humane Society of the United States, Toledo Area Humane Society, and Humane Ohio, urged council to vote against the ban on feeding cats.
John Dinon, Ohio outreach director for the Humane Society, said cats are “definitely going to go where there is food,” but an established cat colony holds that territory and keeps the other cats out. He said if they are no longer fed the felines will roam the area searching for food.
“If you want to do the trap and neuter program it is not humane to take away their source of food. And if they stop being fed the cats will kill more birds, squirrels, and look for food in garbage cans, and get into trouble,” he said.
Councilman Doug Haynam said that other animal organizations, including the Wildlife Society, do not support such programs because they are not effective in reducing the cat population. A statement on the Wildlife Society‘s Web site reads: “TNR [Trap-Neuter-Release] is presented as a way to humanely stabilize and decrease cat populations. Many studies have found that TNR as a management tool fails to do so.”
“Feral cats are exotic and do not fill an existing niche and that even well-fed cats significantly impact wildlife,” Mr Haynam said about his findings.
Before the meeting the organizations seemed interested in helping the city implement the program and find grant funding to support a trap, neuter, and release program, which returns the cat to its former area preventing other stray cats from moving into the territory. However, after the meeting Humane Ohio Director Aimee St. Arnaud said if the feeding ban is passed her group will not assist the city.
Mr. Dinon said that with a feeding ban the program will not work as the two are “mutually exclusive.”
Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.