ASHTABULA — “I refuse to feed strays that have claimed our porch steps as theirs and our trash as their personal buffet,” Jennifer Farley of Ashtabula wrote on the Star Beacon’s Facebook page.
Farley is one of more than 130 people who voiced their opinion on social media about Ashtabula City Council’s discussion Monday night to research the possibility of an ordinance banning people from feeding feral cats on other people’s property.
Farley said feral cats in her west-side neighborhood have gotten out of control ever since someone started putting out bowls of food at the nearby intersection.
“Since then, the number of strays have doubled,” she said. “I’m all for trapping, fixing and releasing. It seems every time a tenant moves out of one our rentals, we end up with a new street kitty.”
Jessica Branscome, who lives on the city’s east side, said she’s sick of picking up her trash every day because of all the stray cats in her neighborhood.
“They use the bathroom in my mulch, they tear my trash up and they keep multiplying like crazy,” she said. “I’m over it. Cats should have to be licensed just like dogs. We probably have 40 cats and 100 kittens in the neighborhood. It’s ridiculous.”
City Manager Jim Timonere agrees there are a ton of feral cats in the city, but equally there are as many people who care about them and feed them.
The issue arose when a resident complained to Ward 4 City Councilman Michael Speelman about someone feeding cats on his property. Speelman brought the issue up Monday night to his fellow council members.
The city has no ordinance prohibiting people from feeding cats.
“If they’re feeding cats on their own property, there’s nothing we can do,” Ward 2 Councilman August Pugliese said.
“Rightfully so, why should someone be allowed on your property to do anything you do not welcome?” Timonere said. “Not only does this attract the cats, it attracts skunks, raccoons and other animals which are not welcome.”
The city manager said he does not support a ban on feeding cats and realizes it would be incredibly difficult to enforce.
“I do however support the property owners who are upset people are doing this on their property and creating a nuisance to them and their neighborhood,” he said. “I hope council continues the discussion and keeps it to this specific issue of feeding cats. This is not about killing cats, allowing them to starve, (which they will not) or arresting people that feed cats. This is about those that go onto other people’s property who are unwelcome to do so and are creating a nuisance for the homeowner or neighborhood by doing so.”
Several area residents said they are afraid council members will back down because so many people are angry about it.
One of those people is Christine Barger.
“What an un-humane thing to ever think of!” she said. “So many people are trying to fix, feed and help the cat population .... What are we supposed to have? A bunch of dead cats laying around all skinny? What a cat hater.”
Jefferson resident Vicki Blon said if people can afford to feed feral cats, let them.
“So we can’t feed starving cats, but Narcan is given out for free,” said Donna Harris.
Destiny Beeman said it’s nobody’s business whether she feeds strays.
“It’s not my place to judge how an animal got to where it is, just like I don’t judge the homeless,” she said. “There are shelters and soup kitchens for people. I don’t think a cat’s life is any less significant.”
ErinAnn Williamson said she will continue to feed feral cats.
“It’s not fair to them that pet owners don’t spay or neuter, then people move and just abandon these poor helpless animals,” she said. “I love animals and it breaks my heart to see so many dumped and forgotten about and left for dead.”
April Urch said there must be a way to make spay and neutering more affordable.
Several people believe the city has bigger problems than cats.
“We have roads that need more attention, we have an opioid epidemic,” said Tonya Nighman. “Let’s focus a little more on real issues rather than worrying if cats are being fed.”
Tammie Blenman said, “Move on council. Stop controlling.”
“Let’s fix the entire county of the drug problem,” said Ryan Fuller.
Krystal John said council should worry about the meth and heroin on the streets.
“I’m still going to continue helping animals,” she said. “They need us.”