ASHTABULA — City police are investigating a report of cats hanging from a tree in a westside neighborhood as an act of animal cruelty.

Police received a call shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday stating someone was “taking the feral cats and hanging them by their necks from trees” in the 1700 block of West 47th Street, according to police and a city official.

“The caller was able to cut them all down,” Animal Control Officer Stephen Lanham said. “They did not actually see anyone in the act but gave me the address.”

When Lanham went to the address on Wednesday, no one answered the door. 

“I didn’t see any cats [hanging in the trees] but there were strings hanging from a tree,” he said. 

Ashtabula Police Chief Robert Stell said he’s only aware of one cat found hanging in a tree and he doesn’t know whether it was feral. 

“The cat didn’t die in that incident,” he said.

The neighbor who reported the hangings said the cat [to which Stell referred] was barely alive when he found it. When he cut it loose, it took off running, Lanham said.

The westside neighborhood is one of areas of the city where residents have reported an abundance of feral cats. But it’s not the only one.

On Wednesday, Lanham said he fielded a call from East 45th Street about “roughly 8 to 10 cats just at their residence.” 

 After a resident recently complained to Ward 4 Councilman Michael Speelman about someone coming onto his property to feed feral cats, council members asked the city solicitor to research the possibility of an ordinance banning people from feeding feral cats on other people’s property.

In the past week or so, about 200 people voiced their opinions on social media — both pro and con about feeding feral cats.

City Solicitor Michael Franklin has since came up with a ban of feeding feral cats with an exemption for feeding a stray or feral cat on one’s own property, as long as the activity does not result in a health nuisance or injury to another person or damage to their property.

“As an example, if my neighbor feeds a feral tomcat and after eating he comes into my yard and attacks and injures my 10-year-old, neutered house cat, my neighbor would be subject to being fined because she fed and attracted the feral cat and that caused me damage,” Franklin said Tuesday.

“As another example, if leaving out piles of cat food around the clock draws rats, skunks, etc., to the neighborhood, that can be a public health nuisance ... If you feed them they will come, and if they do it seems to me they should be your responsibility,” he said.

City Council will discuss the issue at its Oct. 21 meeting.

City Manager Jim Timonere said he’s pleased council is discussing feral cats because it is a problem. Last Monday, for example, his office received five calls asking animal control to remove 10 to 15 feral cats, he said.

“About 30 people drive around every day and feed feral cats in the community,” he said. “If someone was coming on my property and feeding cats, I wouldn’t like it.”

Lanham said when he tells people to stop feeding the cats, he has been called “the white devil.”

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