OCEAN CITY – The Police Commission put a stop this week to persistent rumors the city is going to pass legislation preventing the care for feral cats.
Paul Toulette, founder of Delmarva Association of Animal Rescuers, recently sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council worried that an ordinance would be drafted preventing the public from feeding the town’s large stray cat population.
“Restricting contact between caretakers and these colonies would create a situation where any changes to the colony membership would not be noted as quickly as they are now and the potential for negative reprisals (new litters, the spread of dangerous medical conditions such as rabies and FIV/FLIV to name a few) would grow exponentially…Removal of these caretakers through negative legislation would only exacerbate the problem…they would run rampant and the situation would quickly become untenable,” Toulotte wrote to the council.
In his letter, Toulotte refers to resident Gary Steger’s concerns. Steger’s property is neighboring to one of the town’s cat colonies that have been in existence since 1986. The colony is located on the Trimper family’s property across from the amusement park. The Trimper family plans to convert this piece of property into an additional parking for employees over the offseason.
By policy, the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) is to respond to any form of complaint. Steger’s complaints were responded to by OCPD and animal control. Through combined efforts between animal control and the colony’s caretaker, Steger’s complaints are being answered.
During this week’s Police Commission meeting, the feral cat situation was discussed. OCPD Sgt. Mark Paddack explained to the large crowd of cat activists and the commission the current status of the situation.
According to Paddack, there has been 13-15 cats removed and six remain to find new homes. The three shelters for the cats in the colony have been removed and another will eventually be removed.
“I can tell you the landowner [Steger]…is much happier today now that the majority of the cats have gone,” Paddack said.
An unwritten policy shared and practiced by both animal control and caretakers is when unfamiliar cats approach colonies they are trapped, neutered and released (TNR).
Paddack suggested amendments on town ordinances that involve dogs, to include cats, or domestic animals in general. The ordinances involve owners of pets would be cited for allowing the animals to damage other property besides their own or create an unsanitary condition. Municipal infractions of the ordinances would result in fines.
“I know that most of us don’t want anything to happen to the animals, we also don’t want the property of any one else to be ruined,” Councilman Lloyd Martin said. “If we do have a problem, we need to address the problem, and everybody needs to understand that…I don’t think we need to write legislation to do that.”
The commission read over the suggested legislation by the police department and found it unnecessary.
“Some of it is real severe,” Martin said. “If it’s working and it’s been working, I don’t think anyone of us want to write legislation on how to fix it.”
Feral cat caretaker Ed Smith suggested other possible alternatives to improve the feral cat situation in town and prevent caretakers from breaking any town laws in caring for the cats.
“I’m not asking the city to do any legislation, so much as to have some cooperation and endorsement,” Smith said.
According to Smith, the feral cat caretakers and organizations were advised that they could not feed or shelter cats on city property.
“Maybe to accommodate some of the private property owners…some spots where the city knew and approved of we could feed on some city property as an alternative,” Smith said.
Smith also suggested forming a committee where the town’s caretakers and organizations can unite, discuss ideas to benefit the feral cat situation and approach the council with those ideas.
An example of concerns the committee would discuss are the issue of students, foreign and American, taking in kittens during the summer and “dumping” them when they leave, which adds to the abundance of stray cats in town.
The commission and feral cat supporters came up with an education solution to the issue. Speaking with foreign students on the issue during orientation when they first arrive, or during Play it Safe weekend for American graduates.
With solutions to feral cat issues already arising, it became even clearer there is no need to pass laws against caring for feral cats.
“Without us legislating something…it’s more of us being neighborly,” Martin said.
“We’re not passing legislation today, there’s no law that is going to arrest anybody,” Jim Hall said. “Put your committee together, get some ideas together and come to the council.”