Beverely Hills - photo by Orange County Girl
I have overwritten the last submission entitled, HELP FIGHT BEVERLY HILLS MUNICIPAL CODE, with what follows as some of the comments were too personal and hurtful, although one was particularly constructive. The last submission contained the story of a lady who practiced the TNR program for stray cats, in Beverly Hills, and while doing so fed them in an alley. Her name is Katherine Varjian.
This post is entirely mine and there has been no input from any source (other than provision of links to reference material). We all like good honest discussion, even arguments that progress the subject, me particularly, but not at the expense, in this case, of upsetting the person who made the contribution and the person who she wrote about. For me the bottom line is how we can fairly and humanely redress a wrong that we (people generally) have committed, namely, to enter into an "domestication agreement" with the wildcat some 10,000 year ago and then in large numbers renege on the agreement to leave millions of feral cats to scavenge for a living. It is then about dealing with the problem of feral cats humanely and fairly and if someone is doing this and is being prosecuted by the state and criticized by some neighbors, something is surely wrong.
Dealing with feral cats is an emotive subject and opinions are widely polarized. Some people simply want to exterminate them. These are ignorant people. Kind people see the problem and try and help as best they can in a generally uncaring society (although there are some great people out there doing the right thing).
Photo by chotda
The Beverly Hills Municipal Code in respect of feral cats and in relation to the earlier post is as follows (I have reproduced it verbatim in the expectation that this is not breach of copyright for the sake of accuracy. In the UK, legislation is in the public domain for copyright purposes).:
5-2-104: FEEDING OF CERTAIN ANIMALS PROHIBITED:
A. No person shall feed or in any manner provide food for any nondomesticated mammalian predator which is not under the ownership or legal possession of such person, including, but not limited to, coyotes, raccoons, foxes, and opossums.
B. No person shall feed or in any manner provide or place food for any domesticated animal which is not under the ownership or legal possession of such person, including, but not limited to, dogs and cats, on any public property, or on any property open to the public, or on any private property where the providing or placement of such food is in an area not completely enclosed by a secured wall or fence of at least six feet (6') in height.
C. No person shall feed or in any manner provide or place food for any feral or stray cat that is not under the ownership or legal possession of such person. (1962 Code § 5-1.102.1; amd. Ord. 05-O-2486, eff. 11-25-2005)
The major complaint from neighbors to someone who practices TNR is that in sustaining the cats whilst neutering and/or rehoming them the food attracts wild animals. However in rehoming and neutering feral cats a person conducting TNR whilst feeding them is probably making a positive net contribution because the population size of feral cats in the area should be reduced. However, it seems that some people simply don't want any animals in their area.
On the face of it a person feeding a stray cat while conducting TNR is in breach of clause C. However, clause C is possibly defective or unworkable for these reasons (on the basis of what is stated above):
Professional rescue center staff trap feral cats before doing a medical inspection and then neutering the cat or if the cat is too ill they might euthanize or re-home whatever is most suitable. Food bait is invariably used to entice the cat into the trap. That procedure would, it seems, be in breach of clause C of the above code. If that is the case then all properly conducted professional feral cat TNR programs are unlawful. Following through on that it would be necessary to abandon TNR programs, which would mean the proliferation of the feral cat to unheard of numbers. In consequence the municipal code would operate in the exact opposite manner than as intended.
If a lady feeding cats is prosecuted for doing more or less what professionals do then the law is being exercised in an inequitable manner. To redress that I suggest that if a person acting alone in feeding cats while conducting TNR is then prosecuted and convicted, the punishment should be heavily mitigated and a compromise found that resolves the issue for the benefit of the cats (the first priority for me), the neighbors and the defendant. A judge would find a solution that fitted this objective.
Then there is the issue of what is a feral cat or a stray cat and for that matter the construction of the terms, "ownership" and "legal possession". A feral cat may be a stray cat and a stray cat may be a domestic cat that is neither stray nor feral and that is just visiting the area (e.g. a time share cat). Can the court differentiate one from the other? Will the cats give evidence? In respect of "ownership", cats are "chattels" in legal parlance. That is they are treated in the same way as inanimate objects. If someone throws something out of the house, say an old, broken, cat feeding bowl and declares to that they don't own it anymore and a person likes it and picks it up and takes possession of it, the object becomes theirs. Ownership has been transferred by inference deduced through the people's actions.
If it is decided that the cats are in fact stray cats, I would have thought the same transfer of ownership has happened in respect of a person feeding stray cats while practicing TNR. In feeding cats and caring for them it could quite easily be inferred that the person has become the guardian and owner of these cats pending re-homing.
Clause B is not infringed because it could be successfully argued that it cannot be established under the criminal standard that the cats are domesticated or not or that they are owned or not.
Rather than prosecuting a caring lady who is trying to resolve a problem on her own, it would be better for all concerned if she was involved in a dialogue say organized by the local authority with neighbors with the intention of finding an amicable solution as a community. It is certainly far better than criminalising a caring lady.
This must be within the bounds of possibility, surely. Perhaps the answer lies in clause B; in the building of a simple enclosure. In any case an agreement would be far more suitable than heavy handed criminal proceedings. For the reasons above I say, please help fight Beverly Hills municipal code.
Any comments on the subject of, "HELP FIGHT BEVERLY HILLS MUNICIPAL CODE", should please be in general terms and not personalized.
California is terminally broke. If it was a company it would have filed for insolvency some time ago. There is a shortage of money. Public services will be cut. There is talk of removing the statutory 3 day period before stray animals are euthanized. Laws may well change. Stray animals are at the bottom of the ladder. What will happen? All the more reason to support individuals who are keen to help but perhaps need a bit of guidance and support.
I am pleased to say that there are people who support other people who care for feral cats and try an d gently and humanely reduce their numbers. After all we owe it to feral cats to help because we put them there. I understand that the the City of Beverly Hills have deleted the legislation under which they had or were charging Katherine Varjian, the lady I refer to above who was carrying out TNR work to the annoyance of some of her neighbours. The legislators have passed No. 2560 and section 3 states 5-2-104 "deleted." A motion to dismiss the case against this woman has been made as a result.
The fact is that she is doing good work and perhaps the best solution is not to fight her but to work with her to make her work better. It is not in the public interest to prosecute her and perhaps they have realised that the legislation is probably unenforceable.
Update 22-7-09: Meeting on 18th August 2009 to decide way forward - please read more.
This site has published an article in support: http://web.archive.org/web/20090627105558/http://network.bestfriends.org:80/losangeles/news/34898.html (this link became broken so this is the URL only - it won't work but it may help find the article). If this progresses now as it seems then I would hope that the neighbours will unite to help solve the feral cat problem constructively.
HELP FIGHT BEVERLY HILLS MUNICIPAL CODE - Photos: published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License -- this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.