ASHTABULA — After much discussion Monday night, City Council asked City Solicitor Michael Franklin to research and make recommendations on legislation regarding feeding feral cats.

On Wednesday, Franklin said he came up with a draft of an ordinance after looking at the actions of several surrounding communities that have tried to address this problem. 

“It appears there are two basic approaches,” he said. “The first is to ban feeding feral cats, period. The second is to authorize and register ‘feral cat colonies’ with feeding stations and certain requirements imposed on the operators of such that are designed to promote spaying and neutering, adopting out kittens as soon as they are weaned, etc.”

Each of the approaches comes with some baggage, he said.

“The outright ban will outrage well-intentioned — but perhaps not well-informed — people who just ‘won’t stand by and let some poor animal starve,’” Franklin said.

The second approach requires a dedication of resources, especially manpower. The cat colonies have to be registered, monitored and inspected. The city probably cannot take that task on and still perform its other animal-control functions without hiring more people, he said. 

“The draft ordinance seeks to avoid some of the problems associated with each approach,” he said. “There is a ban on feeding a variety of nuisance animals, including feral cats, but there are provisions for supporting trap-neuter-return activities conducted by appropriate organizations.”

The ordinance does have exceptions from prosecution, including one for feeding feral cats, but only if you can prove the cats have been spayed or neutered, which means, “if you want to feed them you better get them fixed,” Franklin said. “There is the collection of a civil penalty of $60 which I suggest be applied to our costs of housing stray animals. There is also an enhanced penalty if the person feeding feral cats is doing it on public property or a neighbor’s property, which is a complaint I commonly hear.”

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

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