A proposal by Hilliard City Council to charge residents with a minor misdemeanor if they “feed, harbor or house” a feral cat likely will not advance, council President Kelly McGivern said Nov. 15.
“I am planning to make a motion to withdraw the legislation,” she said. “There are other options being explored.”
After ThisWeek’s story on the legislation being introduced Oct. 28, many residents and animal activists took to social media to weigh in.
“We did receive a number of emails and groups offering advice on how to address the issues,” McGivern said.
However, the authorizing ordinance for the legislation will remain on the agenda for council’s Nov. 25 meeting. It is scheduled for a second reading, at which public comment will be accepted, even though the legislation will be withdrawn, McGivern said.
The legislation defines a feral cat as one that is “wild, stray or not owned.”
It dictates “no person shall feed, harbor or house a feral cat or cats” and stipulates anyone doing so could be guilty of a minor misdemeanor. Anyone who violates the ordinance within a 12-month period after a prior violation would be guilty of a fourth-degree misdemeanor, according to the text of the ordinance.
McGivern said she asked for the legislation to be drafted because the city continues “to receive complaints about the presence of feral cats and related waste.” She quantified it as three complaints in the past four months.
But after acknowledging the blowback, council will consider further input, McGivern said.
“(The response) is actually great because before we introduced the legislation, we had contacted several cat-rescue groups and no one called back,” she said. “Now we have lots of folks with ideas like trap, neuter and release programs, grants for spaying and neutering and educational campaigns.”
McGivern said she has communicated her intent to withdraw the legislation to other council members.
“I know that others on council are looking at alternatives also, so there may be different legislation in the future,” she said.
Among those is council member Omar Tarazi, who had expressed concerns about McGivern’s proposal.
“I don’t think the (proposed) legislation makes sense at all,” Tarazi said shortly after it was proposed.
He said he will vote for its withdrawal if McGivern offers it.
Tarazi called the city’s feral-cat problem “small and localized,” and the new citywide legislation might not be required, he said.
For example, the city could enforce code that prohibits animals running at large but add an exemption for cats that are spayed, neutered and vaccinated to allow for owners who choose to keep an “indoor-outdoor cat” to do so while penalizing those who contribute to the feral-cat population, Tarazi said.
The city also could utilize a trap, neuter and release program, also known as TNR, employed by such organizations as Colony Cats, he said.
Lori Skaggs, a volunteer for Colony Cats, a Dublin-based nonprofit organization, proposes TNR.
“(The proposed legislation) is completely awful and not the way to address (the problem of feral cats),” Skaggs previously told ThisWeek. “TNR is the humane way to manage (the feral -cat population).”
Council Vice President Pete Marsh said he supports withdrawing the proposed legislation.
“I believe that a better path forward in addressing concerns about feral cats begins with working with various advocacy organizations,” he said.
Such discussions could lead to ways to improve community education and best practices to minimize problems while still being humane toward the animals, Marsh said.
Better public education is another approach Hilliard could consider, Tarazi said.
“There is no magic solution but a combination of solutions that need to happen,” he said.