Thursday, March 10, 2011

Feral Cats - feed them and get a lien on your house?

According to the Feral Means:

1.  existing in a natural state, as animals or plants; not domesticated or cultivated; wild.
2.  having reverted to the wild state, as from domestication: a pack of feral dogs roaming the woods.
3.  of or characteristic of wild animals; ferocious; brutal.
When I ran into an article that stated that Connecticut lawmakers were considering fining people for feeding feral cats $90 / day, and could put a lien on someone's house for repeated offenses, I was quite shocked.  I have never been to Connecticut and so I don't know if they have an extreme overpopulation, but I have lived in large cities and know that sometimes animals get loose, get scared, roam, and sometimes they pack together - which is not a good things for dogs in particular due to their pack instincts, but cats?  Cats are usually pretty independent, at least the cats that I have known, so I don't think packing is a problem.  
I read further into the article and saw that perhaps there is a concern about the spread of disease, and that is understandable, especially rabies.  Another problem, it seems, is that by leaving food people could be attracting rats to their houses rather than cats.  While rat does rhyme with cat, it doesn't mean that they have too much in common.  Rats definitely carry diseases, and are considered pests for good reason.  So, it makes sense that the public at large might have a problem with others attracting rodent pests into their back yard.  Point taken.  Finally, when many feral cats get together who aren't spayed or neutered, then overpopulation becomes an issue.  While there are some low-cost spay/neuter clinics available in the area, they can't help every feral cat in the area.  
But still.  $90/day and a lien on one's house for repeated offenses?  Isn't that going a little too far with legislation?  Should people be told who they can and can't help out, take care of, or feed?  The cats are hungry too, and if they aren't fed cat food they will surely congregate and feed elsewhere, like at the local dumpsters, or get into people's trash cans.  All of which defeats the purpose of banning feeding them due to the worries of disease epidemics and overpopulation.  Cats are quite smart and will find food.  Further, I can't imagine that rats would stay away if there wasn't a bowl of cat food waiting for them because there are still trash bags to get into and dumpsters to dig through in any neighborhood that I've ever seen.
Instead of fining the people for having the heart to feed an animal in need, why not use that lawmaking power to find a solution to the problem.  Besides, who would benefit from the fines and liens on people's houses?  I didn't read anywhere that the funds would be used to help the feral cats, and that's troublesome.  
So what do you think?  Should people be allowed a choice on whether they can feed feral cats or other animals, or should the lawmakers create legislation banning it?  And what about the fine of $90/day - do you agree that it should be put towards the welfare of feral cats and/or other feral animals?  Finally, what about that lien on one's house, is that extreme or what?
Written by Tsilos of


Doris Sturm said...

At first I had to read this twice - it sounded like an infringement of my rights as a compassionate human being to help someone in need, but I think there has to be common sense involved somewhere in that probably depends on where the house is located, how many cats are being attracted and annoyances for other people who do not want cats around. Also, why won't animal control just jump in and pick them up if it's going to be a problem? Most people don't have several traps lying around, so if the city doesn't like it, have them get their Animal Control people involved - I personally could not in good conscience enjoy my life if I knew animals were starving in front of my door and I would resent being forced to practice animal cruelty - it's against every fiber of my being and I would not tolerate that. I feed the strays and ferals where I live, but I have permission from the apartment management company and I go out to the nearby wooded area (away from the apartments) to feed them there so that they don't come around and "stink" up the apartments like males will do when they are not neutered. A few other neighbors and I have raised money and managed to trap a few cats to get them spayed and neutered at a low cost Animal Clinic, but as those are being killed off (by dogs and other incidents) new ones keep replacing them that are not spayed. I have a very sensitive nose and can not have male cats spraying around my apartment - so that's why I encourage them to fee away from the apartments. I believe that if a citizen is going to express an honest concern about helping the cats and are willing to work with the authorities on some strategy, especially in a heavily populated area, I'm almost certain that a good solution for that problem could be reached. We are forbidden by apartment management to feed the strays on our porches, but we can fed them away from the apartments, which I do every day! And YES if there are any fines imposed due to cat feeding or whatever, that money should go towards the stray cats' needs for food/shelter, TNR programs etc.
(sorry I wrote so much!)

Michelle said...

I think putting a lien on someone's home for feeding feral cats is pretty extreme. And it would be interesting to know where all that money from those fines was going. It would make sense if it went towards helping the problem, otherwise it's just another way for the city to put more money in their pockets. I'll admit to feeding strays in the past (the poor things were starving!), but I was also able to tame them down and find them loving homes. Thanks for another great post!
-Michelle of CreativeCritters

Four Corners USA said...

This is an incredibly difficult subject for me. I remember feeding a new family of kittens because they were so skinny and my own 'little old man', 20 year old tabby was the product of a 'homeless' kitty.

Unfortunately, I have a neighbor who now has several pets (I use that term loosely) and is about as irresponsible as can be with respect to them. With three children at home, their actions are an awful example to their children.

Their dogs are constantly running the neighborhood - 1 large, 2 very small - and periodically the cars are screeching to a halt! My babies are never out of my sight and never let outside unsupervised (we do not have a fenced in area).

They feed a feral cat and although my emotions are also very mixed (because I just love all animals), this has over the years posed problems. Not only do we find him under our vehicles (so afraid of running him over - not something I would want to live with - I'm not a killer!), he on occasion sits on our exterior window sill and makes my kitty crazy (and dogs as well).

One night we arrived home from a 4 day trip and when I opened the garage door, he went running out! All I could think was what did he eat or drink? Did they miss him? This was a short trip for us…what on earth if we were away for 2-3 weeks? None of this seemed to concern my neighbor at all. I just couldn’t believe it. We are a traveling ‘zoo’…our pets come with us on every business trip…they are not a fashion statement!

There has been much attention regarding feral cats here in FL as well. I think one of the problems is of course, overpopulation increasing as folks just can no longer care for their pets and do not take the time to locate a home or shelter for them. Economics have had a huge impact on Animal Control, Public and Private Shelters as they are stretched beyond their capabilities in both manpower and funding. Many private facilities have closed.

Although I would not have thought highly of such stringent laws to help curb feral cats, I think communities are finding themselves fighting a losing battle. My understanding is Animal Control will provide food in certain locations to bring feral cats together so they can get them back to the shelter. When citizens feed, then the colonies are not so centralized.

My biggest awareness was two years ago when our area had 28 inches of rain in 4-5 days. Over the next week we were infested with fleas! In 30 years of caring for several pets at any given time, I have never had an issue with fleas. I came to the conclusion that the concentration of fleas was the result of them loosing territory removed by the flood waters. This is not just the result of cat fecal of course, but dog fecal as well (another law that does not seem to be enforced well). My babies really suffered in the process of clearing up this problem and my poor cat was truly the target of the infestation I think because of his age (and he doesn’t even go past a screened in porch). In addition to the fleas, I then had to medicate the dogs for worms and like myself, try to limit any chemical intake they are exposed to – a pill is not always the answer!

So yes, I do think disease is a problem but I also don’t think they will be able to enforce any of this effectively without serious public awareness. Pets are an incredible responsibility (so are children, unfortunately we see all too much abuse in that arena).

Thank you for raising this awareness and subject matter.

Expressions by BJ said...

I just can't say enough about the stupidity in this world today. It's just too rediculous for words. BJ

Debra said...

This is a multi-layered and multi-faceted issue. If only every one would spay and neuter and if only every one would respect and value the lives of animals who are supposed to be pets, valued and treasured, not neglected and abused. Thanks for making us think more about this. What a dilemma.