CEDARVILLE — The village of Cedarville has tabled three proposed ordinances targeting the stray cat population, dividing residents of Cedarville who claim these rules to be inhumane and unnecessary.
The first ordinance, 2023-06, gives a more specific definition of “running at large.” This term would apply to cats and what constitutes ownership of a cat not on a leash or under control by its owner.
The second, 2023-07, would criminalize feeding stray cats among other animals, as well as criminalize animals making unwanted noises. Under this ordinance as it is written, residents of Cedarville could be fined $150 each day they feed a stray cat or own a squirrel feeder.
The third ordinance, 2023-08, institutes regulations for residents to feed cats without getting fined. The ordinance proposed would require prior registration and allowance for residents to feed animals in accordance with the law.
Alley Cat Allies, a charity organization dedicated to providing care and awareness for stray cats, has raised several concerns with Cedarville’s proposed ordinances, labeling them cruel and unusual punishments for cats and preventing volunteers from providing adequate help.
“Feeding bans are inherently cruel to cats who are accustomed to receiving food, and they have already proven not to work in hundreds of other communities,” Alley Cat Allies attorney DanaMarie Panella said in a press release. “Cedarville leaders are pursuing an idea that modern society realized to be obsolete decades ago.”
As a result of that, Cedarville will no longer consider the three ordinances. Cedarville Mayor John Cody Jr., said the ordinances are now considered “previously proposed ordinances.”
“If we introduce new legislation, it would have to start over at the first reading,” he said.
According to Cody, the legislation was too vague and does not accurately represent what they were trying to accomplish. While it would put restrictions on feeding cats, it would also restrict residents from owning a bird or squirrel feeder without proper registration, a side effect Cody said was not intentional.
As for registration required to be allowed to feed cats and provide TNR services, Cody did not want the process to be complicated.
“We just want to know who’s doing it,” he said. “I don’t think we have a defined process in place.”
According to Cody, there is already an ordinance in place that restricts residents from feeding stray animals in the first place, but it is impossible to enforce. The mayor’s hope is that these ordinances would provide a backdoor allowance for good-willed residents who want to feed stray cats without breaking any laws.
The only residents who would be realistically denied registration, according to Cody, are those who are in lease agreements that disallow feeding stray animals. As for any other residents being denied registration, Cody said he did “not envision a scenario where that’s the case.”
One issue contributing to the stray cat population — which has reached approximately 1,000 cats compared to the 4,000-4,500 residents — is Cedarville University students who feed and take in cats during the school year, and leave them to roam once summer break hits.
“That has been a contributing factor to this,” said Cody on the fluctuating student population.
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a humane method of population control for stray cats supported by Alley Cat Allies, the Humane Society, and many other ethically-based animal control organizations. Ordinance 2023-08, according to Alley Cat Allies, would keep volunteers involved in TNR programs from performing these humane population control practices because of “new regulations and bureaucratic obstacles,” that could bring the entire program to an end in Cedarville.
“By restricting TNR with these ordinances, the village is likely to see an increase in the same animal behaviors it is trying to prevent,” said Pannella. “Cedarville should not be restricting TNR; it should be looking for ways to build upon the success TNR is already having in the village.”
Along with TNR program restrictions, Alley Cat Allies is against feeding bans against cats, claiming they do not work to properly regulate cat populations and only serve to starve stray cats that are used to receiving food nearby, forcing them to widen their territory in search of food.
“Feeding bans for cats have definitively proven to be ineffective,” the press release said. “Besides being cruel and impossible to enforce, prohibiting caregivers from providing food does not make the cats disappear. Instead, it simply encourages cats to roam further to find food.”
Cody and other village leaders are now in the process of planning a town hall meeting, though it could take some time. According to the mayor, he would like the meeting to take place early June, but there are many legal prerequisites that must be fulfilled first.
“Between now and the town hall, I myself want to do a lot of research on this topic,” said Cody. “I want a well-argued well-reasoned discussion.”
According to Cody, the ordinances were never intended to prevent feeding stray cats or keep them from receiving TNR treatment; in fact, Cody voiced support for TNR as the “best way forward,” and wants to use these ordinances as a way to give residents an opportunity to feed stray cats without repealing the previous ordinance that originally outlawed the act.
The original ordinance outlawing feeding stray animals is in place, according to Cody, to protect property owners from damages stray cats can cause as they search for shelter in the winter.
“We want a plan that will take care of the villagers, take care of the cats, and doesn’t sleight the property owner,” said Cody, who said he wants a fair an equitable solution for all three parties.
“We don’t want to be cruel to the cats,” said the mayor. “But I can see that there is some confusion.”
Previously this year, Alley Cat Allies Director of Programs Alice Burton wrote about her visit to Cedarville with the goal of educating and encouraging TNR programs in the village.
“I’m confident Cedarville is on the road to achieving something great for its cats and community,” she wrote on Jan. 21. “All of us at Alley Cat Allies will keep working with the village to make it happen, and we’ll keep you posted.”
Alley Cat Allies is currently planning a large demonstration in protest of the three ordinances on Monday, April 10, in front of the Cedarville Opera House. It is unknown whether this demonstration will be cancelled as a result of the ordinances no longer being addressed at the council meeting Monday.
“I feel like the overall theme of this is we are desperately looking for an equitable solution,” said Cody. “It’s in the planning process right now.”
Contact Ethan Charles at 937-502-4532.