Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Orange Park Drops Cat Feeding Ban; Council Will Seek Trap-Neuter Grant; Citizens Panel Also to Study Issue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Orange Park Drops Cat Feeding Ban; Council Will Seek Trap-Neuter Grant; Citizens Panel Also to Study Issue

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

During Orange Park Town Councilman Steve Howard's 2014 term as mayor, numerous residents complained to him about colonies of feral cats.

They complained about people feeding the undomesticated cats on private property, which in some cases led to them "making a mess," including a day-care center's sandbox, he said.

But when Howard suggested Orange Park residents be banned from feeding feral or stray cats on residential property they do not own or on non-residential property, he and the council heard from a lot of other people. At the council's Tuesday night meeting, dozens showed up to oppose the ban and some of them picketed with signs outside Town Hall.

Opponents of the ban were horrified at the prospect of "criminalizing compassion," said opponent Bill Clark.

In response, the council did not act on Howard's proposal, but voted to form a citizens committee to study the issue. Also, the council will seek grants to resume an earlier trap-neuter-release program that expired last year.

About 500 cats were trapped, neutered, then released back to their colonies as part of the earlier program, which was funded by a $32,000 Petsmart Charities grant, according to town officials.

"Makes no difference to me," Howard said Wednesday. "We just need to get a solution."

Meanwhile, the Clay County Commission also is pondering the feral-cat issue, said Jennifer Broadhurst, the veterinarian who heads county Animal Care and Control. The commission recently supported the trap-neuter-release approach and will seek grants to pursue such a program, she said.

Countywide, Clay has an estimated 28,000 "outdoor community cats," based on a population-based formula that includes Orange Park, she said. The estimate for the town alone is about 1,200 cats, she said.

Members of the area animal-welfare community said Orange Park's proposed ban was an inhumane approach. More appropriate would be to support the people who feed and otherwise "manage" the colonies by providing trap-neuter-release programs so that the cats do not multiply, they said. …

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