ASHTABULA — City officials are discussing whether to make it illegal for people to feed feral cats. 

Ward 4 Councilman Michael Speelman, who chairs council’s safety forces committee, said the committee received a complaint from a homeowner about someone feeding feral cats on his property. He brought up the issue Monday night to his fellow council members.

“It seems nothing can be done about it,” he said. “The city has no ordinance prohibiting this action.”

City Manager Jim Timonere said he’s pleased council is discussing it because it is a problem. On 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 feeding cats, I wouldn’t like it.”

Animal Control Officer Stephen Lanham said when he tells people to stop feeding the cats, he’s called “the white devil.” He doesn’t know if the city will ever solve the problem. If someone is feeding cats on someone else’s property, then it’s trespassing. But if they feed feral cats on their own property, there’s nothing city officials can do. 

Ward 3 Councilman Richard Quaranta suggested council ask City Solicitor Michael Franklin to research legislation banning feeding feral cats so council can see how other cities manage the problem.

“It’s 50-50 here in Ashtabula — half love cats, half hate cats,” Lanham said. “I’ve found 15 to 20 bowls of cat food set out on the sidewalk on West 52nd Street. I’ve chased people out of vacant buildings who are leaving food and water out for the cats ... something has got to give.”

Timonere said the problem is there is no place to take feral cats. The Animal Protective League is overloaded with cats and the city already pays $85 for every stray or lost dog it takes there, he said.

Ward 2 Councilman August Pugliese said he has friends who have fed feral cats for 15 years.

“There are so many feral cats ... if you are feeding them on your property, there’s nothing we can do,” he said.

Speelman said cats are supposed to hunt for their food.

“I love animals, but if you feed them, they don’t hunt,” he said. 

If the city passes legislation banning people from feeding feral cats, Lanham suggested violators pay court costs plus a $60 fine that would go towards a spay/neuter program.

Several council members said they like that idea. “We can’t do nothing,” Speelman said.

Council decided to ask Franklin to research the issue and come up with some sample legislation.

In other business, City Council:

• Approved an ordinance authorizing Timonere to enter into a $64,900 change-order contract with Building Technicians Cop. for repair and replacement of the roof of the Walnut Beach concession stand.

• Approved an ordinance authorizing Timonere to enter into a $79,228 contract with Great Lakes GMC Buick for the purchase of two one-ton trucks for the Public Works Department.

• Approved an ordinance authorizing Timonere to enter into a $13,274 contract with Radioactive Electronics for installation of security cameras on Bridge Street.

• Approved an ordinance authorizing Timonere to enter into a $24,750 contract with Brobst Tree and Stump Service to clear Walnut Beach Park’s south hillside, including removal of trees and brush.

The next council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 in council chambers at the Municipal Building.

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