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Not ‘Purrfect’ Stray cat law passes, but with no fee for feeding
MICHELE WALTER FRY Review Correspondent
, Staff Writer
A proposed ordinance to manage feral cats in Ephrata Borough drew passionate public testimony at the Oct. 14 council meeting.
The ordinance, a measure to lower the local wild cat population, would require residents who are feeding them to trap, neuter and release these cats as a means of halting the reproductive cycle. Caregivers of these cats would be required to pay a $100 fee to do so. Council has been working on a solution since residents started complaining about the increasing feral cat population nearly two years ago.
However, some critics of the ordinance wonder what the fee is all about. Council members heard from Nancy Althouse, a former Ephrata resident currently living in Denver.
"I see that you would like to have them pay $100 for a permit just to help the cats," said Althouse. "It doesn’t seem fair. Most of the time they’re out of pocket for the cat food and they are just trying to do a good deed."
Residents took turns voicing their opinion in the heated subject, including Nancy Reese.
"Some of the rescue places do not take them at all, they euthanize the cats. With the Humane League of Lancaster, you can rent a trap from them and it’s $15 per cat and you have to make an appointment to take it in," Reese said. "It just seems the borough is shifting responsibility. It seems like these people should be rewarded for taking responsibility, not forced to – you call it a license, but I call it a fine. Is there any kind of reimbursement given to these people for doing the job of the trap, neuter and release program?
Reese and other residents in attendance were confused about what the $100 fee was for and what it covered.
"The proposed ordinance allows someone to feed a feral cat if they get a permit to be a feral cat caregiver," James McManus, Ephrata Borough Solicitor answered. "One of the responsibilities for doing so is that that caregiver makes sure that the cat is either neutered or spayed, has its vaccinations and has its ear tagged, so they know that that’s been done and now you are granted permission to feed that cat."
Reese added, "The borough is shifting responsibility to the citizens."
Council members were supportive of the residents’ opinions. Council member Anthony Kilkuskie pointed out he appreciated all the comments and that they have been working on this a long time.
"I have reservations about how effective this will be, but at this point in time I think it’s the borough’s best effort to deal with what is a problem in the community," Kilkuskie said. "It may not be perfect but we can see how it works – if it doesn’t work, it can be tweaked later on. For now, I think this is a best effort of the borough going forward after due diligence."
But Kilkuskie had more to say later in the meeting.
"I sense from some of the comments in the audience that the fee may be a deterrent to people coming forward, which would defeat the purpose of the ordinance which is a significant part of the trap, feed, vaccinate and return program," he said. "In that respect, I’m not going to vote for the fee.
Council agreed this is the best idea they have at this point for reducing the feral cat population, even if by a small percentage. It was pointed out that they wished they had heard these concerns much earlier rather than residents coming in on voting night after reading it in the newspaper
"The responsibility lies with us, the borough, and also with the residents," said council member George Dillio. "Everyone has a responsibility to stay up to speed. To say, no, we’re not going to address it at all and let the cat population proliferate, I think is irresponsible for us – particularly when people bring that concern to us."
The $100 fee continued to be debated, with council seeming to agree with residents and suggested it could be lowered or gotten rid of altogether.
"I think the fee in light of the economy is insane. I don’t know where the number came from, but I think in this format should not be approved," exclaimed Victor Richard, council member.
Mayor Mowen agreed.
"I am a cat person. I know two neighbors who feed cats and in the ordinance, the caregivers have the financial burden which will cost that person $60, $100, or more depending on the vet they take them to," Mowen said. "I don’t see the borough staff issuing 1,000 permits; I see them issuing 20 or 30 if that. I’m sorry, I don’t agree with any fee."
After much discussion on what the fee should be or if there should be a fee, Council voted and a motion carried for there to be no feral cat caregiver permit fee.
As the audience applauded, President Dale Hertzog joked and said, "It was painful, but we got there."
More CATS, page A12