SHAMOKIN DAM Borough (Snyder County), Pennsylvania: in this borough they have very recently introduced a new ordinance which states that if you are engaged in TNR programs and feeding feral cats you have to feed the cats within a fenced area or within a cage in order to prevent feral cat colonies from becoming a nuisance to the community.
Volunteers involved in TNR program say the law is cruel. It seems to me that it prevents or obstructs TNR programs. The feeding of feral cats as part of TNR programs has always been controversial but volunteers say it is necessary and when it is carried out responsibly by, for example, taking up the cat food at night to prevent attracting other animals then it poses no problem to the community.
The borough manager said that the ordinance is about improving the quality of life of residents. He says that there is nothing inhumane about it and nobody is saying that they should starve the feral cats. However, if you’re going to feed feral cats within a confined fence-in area it means as far as I can tell that all the feral cats are permanently confined (or rounded up) and that is not how feral cats operate. It’s a rather peculiar ordinance which seems to me to be designed to stop TNR programs.
It seems that the local authority did not reach out to TNR volunteers before discussing the introduction of the law. If they had it would have given them a chance to explain how TNR works and that the feral cat problem is a people problem.
One volunteer, a resident of Sixth Avenue, Bonnie Blair, has received a warning because she left open containers of food for stray cats outside her home. She has now stopped and of course the cats still come to her home and hang around looking for the food. If you are in breach of the law you get a $30 fine for a first offence which rises to $125 for a third offence.
This little vignette of life in a borough of America tells us once again that there is a quiet war going on between volunteers who want to improve the lives of feral cats and people who don’t like it and who are sometimes supported by the local authority who scratch their heads searching for a way to deal with it humanely. The answer is to let the volunteers get on with it as they provide a civic service.
P.S. The law is not yet available for viewing online it seems.