Complaints about stray cats prompts West Orange, NJ to ban feeding them

West Orange Township Council meeting
West Orange Township Council meeting 9th Sept 2014. Photo: Cynthia Cumming.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

West Orange Township, New Jersey has passed a ban on the feeding of stray and feral cats. Residents and visitors to this New Jersey community are now banned from feeding wildlife warning:

“No person shall feed any wildlife, excluding confined wildlife, anywhere within the Township.”

The previous ordinance only disallowed feeding on West Orange owner property. The new ordinance includes private property as well. In other words, a home owner can’t feed a stray cat in their own back yard.

According to a September 25 report by NJ.com, Ordinance 2419-14 was passed on September 9 by a 2-1-2 vote by the West Orange Township Council. Council President Susan McCartney and Councilwoman Patty Spango voted in favor of the ordinance while Councilman Joe Krakoviak voted no. Councilmen Victor Cirilo and Jerry Guarino abstained. You read the ordinance in full by clicking on the link below:

Ordinance to band feeding wildlife including feral cats


Kate Riviello says: Our group nokill-newyork.org and New York Animal Rights Alliance America will be gathering at 6pm on October 21, 2014 outside of Town Hall to protest and demonstrate against this ban.

We will enter into the Town Hall at 7pm sharp to present public comment to be entered into public record. I will be in West Orange handing out fliers to the residents to encourage their attendance and participation.

This ban is unconstitutional with government intruding into the lives of private citizens on their private property and it is inhumane on every level. We will offer help and solutions to the town of West Orange for their perceived problem with community (feral) cats.

For the citizens of West Orange who feel they need assistance and are not receiving it, please call our organization (845) 856-7366.


The nearly 500 nuisance calls on stray and feral cats resulted in 598 cats being impounded over the same period between 2010 and June 2014 is what prompted West Orange Township to initiate the feeding ban. This year alone, 68 complaints have been filed and 81 feral cats impounded.

Former West Orange resident Kathleen O’Malley, TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) Manager at the ASPCA, pleaded with the Council to reject the ordinance, and instead adopt a TNR approach toward the cats. West Orange Health Officer Theresa DeNova said she had cautioned residents against feeding the cats, but needed a mechanism in place that would allow fines to be handed out to repeat offenders. She brought up the topic of cats being the third cause of rabies in the United States, behind raccoons and skunks.

O’Malley told the council a TNR program would require additional taxpayer dollars if undertaken by the ASPCA, but it would seem this would be a lesser evil than paying to trap and euthanize the many feral and stray cats that are trapped and picked up by animal control. In many areas, being feral is an automatic death sentence by those who don’t believe a feral cat can ever be tamed enough to become a house cat. In reality, so can and some can’t.

Officials appear blind to the statistics that feral cats who are TNR’d are spayed/neutered, vaccinated against rabies and tested for feline diseases. The town doesn’t understand that trapping these cats without a TNR program only means more cats will show up to take their place. The problem will never be alleviated with a feeding ban.

West Orange said it would consider a TNR program in the future. The State Office of Animal Welfare refused to comment on whether West Orange has a higher than average number of stray and feral cats.

Animal Protection League of New Jersey programs director Janine Motta, a supporter of TNR, says one method used to estimate the number of stray or feral cats in an area is to divide the human population by 15. This would show West Orange has a much higher count of cats, about six times what complaints determined.

There are many concerns being questioned about the new ordinance. One concerned the feeding of birds in the area, since birds are considered wildlife. The response to birds was:

“The ordinance was not intended for birds,” said DeNova. “but we would address the problem if it was a problem.”

This sounds suspiciously like feeding birds may also be added to the ban, should they become a “problem.” Personally, I think this ban is total lunacy. It’s also interfering too much into what a family does on their own property, since the ban against feeding stray or feral cats also includes feeding on private property. So if a resident places a bowl of food and water outside to feed a hungry cat, they’re guilty of violating the ban. And we all know fines will eventually be imposed, because cat lovers are going to feed these cats-no matter what.

Will people eventually be arrested and go to jail for feeding cats? West Orange is most likely dealing with a ban that won’t work regardless. A similar ban was passed in South Orange and failed.

Sources: nj.com and the Alternative Press.

21 thoughts on “Complaints about stray cats prompts West Orange, NJ to ban feeding them”

  1. Our group nokill-newyork.org and New York Animal Rights Alliance America will be gathering at 6pm on October 21, 2014 outside of Town Hall to protest and demonstrate against this ban. We will enter into the Town Hall at 7pm sharp to present public comment to be entered into public record. I will be in West Orange handing out fliers to the residents to encourage their attendance and participation. This ban is unconstitutional with government intruding into the lives of private citizens on their private property and it is inhumane on every level. We will offer help and solutions to the town of West Orange for their perceived problem with community (feral) cats. For the citizens of West Orange who feel they need assistance and are not receiving it, please call our organization (845) 856-7366. Thank you for this article Elisa.

    Reply
  2. City/town council members and County Commissioners are like first responders. Their jobs are to stabilize the situation as fast as possible.

    Because there are always complaints pouring in about free-roaming and ferals, they have an obligation to act in order to appease that part of the community.

    It might be different if there were call-ins from people who don’t mind or even love those cats. But, that will never happen. And, why should it? How many people feel the need to call about pleasantries?

    I think this situation in New Jersey may have come about because of a failure of cat lovers to respond. Local meetings are always posted and made public. The agendas are always spelled out. If there is any sort of cat issue listed in my area, I will be there. There may or may not be others.

    TNR and ordinances enacted would never have come about here if it weren’t for a small cat rescue group fighting for it and taking full responsibility. The ASPCA has no interest here and the Humane Society cries “poor” (LOL!) all of the time. But, the program excels because of a handful of driven people who work hard and rely on donations and benefits to keep it going. Now they are receiving grants too. In my county alone, there are 330 manage feral colonies and over 2500 neuterings have been done in the past 2 years.
    I’m honored to be associated with them.

    Reply
  3. This law makes no sense, for reasons too numerous to go into here. This is is going to backfire on the bird-lovers who hate feral cats – if people are forbidden to feed the cats, they will be hungrier and kill more BIRDS!!

    Reply
    • Pam, the very same thought went through my mind when I read this article. Whilst it’s true that amongst well fed pet cats some continue to hunt, many are simply not bothered. A BBC documentary earlier this year revealed that many British cats with access to the outdoors, prefer sneaking into another cat’s home to steal their food, rather than hunting prey for an extra meal. Regardless of their natural predatory drive, a starving cat will be obliged to hunt if that’s it’s only source of food.

      I believe that the feeding ban could also result in more fights over territory as the available food sources dwindle.

      Why won’t the US wake up to TNR programmes. I really don’t understand the continued resistance, because it really is the only humane long term solution to the problem of strays and ferals.

      Personally I’d like to see microchipping of all pet cats made compulsory. Many of those stray cats are lost or abandoned pets and microchips would identify those who abandon their animals. It would also help identify those who don’t bother having their cats neutered/spayed, which is another contributing factor to the number of homeless cats.

      As for the ban, well I would be a repeat offender or end up taking in all the local strays. (Two of my three cats were adult strays I took in. The other one was rescued from the streets of Cyprus as a kitten).

      Reply
      • TNR, with mandatory vaccines and microchipping, is coming into play big time here.
        This article isn’t typical of what the reality is in much of the U.S.
        In fact, microchipping here is way ahead of the UK. Today, most any cat taken in to be neutered, are required to be implantd with a microchip.
        Maybe, it is different in the U.K. because no one ever thinks of their cat being lost, stolen, or needed to be identified when found dead.

        Reply
        • Dee, I hope the ban isn’t typical, but I’ve read some nasty stuff said on-line about what should happen with stray and feral cats. Sadly some of those comments came from cat owners.

          I’ve no idea what the current uptake in microchipping is in the UK, but it’s becoming increasingly popular because most cats are allowed an indoor-outdoor lifestyle if they choose. I’ve been getting my cats chipped since 2003 and most of my friends have their cats chipped too. The government has introduced legislation to make it compulsory for all dogs in the UK to be microchipped and registered by 2016. I wish they’d included cats in this piece of legislation.

          Reply
          • I agree because the government needs to force the cat owners who are less responsible to be more responsible, which will humanely reduce stray cat numbers. The population of strays in America and the UK I suppose has been stable and too high for too long.

            Reply

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