Feral cat problem hits Niles
Feral cat problem hits Niles
Tribune Chronicle, Niles Ohio - September 17, 2006
By RAYMOND L. SMITH Tribune Chronicle
NILES — Wild cats are running around creating havoc in city neighborhoods.
Residents are upset with the damaged gardens and yards, while City Council is contemplating a new law that would require cat owners to license their feline friends.
Trumbull County animal activists, however, argue licensing laws do little good in controlling cat populations and could lead a slippery slope to even stricter regulations.
‘‘We’re going to be damned if we do this and damned it we don’t do something about these cats,’’ said Councilman Thomas A. Scarnecchia, who heads the Safety Committee. ‘‘We have rules and regulations for every other animal.’’
Niles Animal Control specialist Mark Morrall says the number of homeless cats has grown significantly in recent years, with complaints about cats damaging gardens, urinating on lawn furniture and porches and walking on vehicles coming into Morrall’s office several days each week.
‘I’ve gone to places where there have been 15 to 20 cats living,’’ Morrall said. ‘‘And, in most instances, those cats are feral, so they can’t be placed in with other animals because they will attack them.’’
Morrall said he often has nowhere to take these cats after they are captured. Because of the lack of shelter space, he often has to euthanize them.
‘‘It is not something that I want to do,’’ Morrall said.
Morrall says that when he does nuisance sweeps, he warns homeowners to get their pets inside.
‘‘A licensing program will help us identify the cat owners, so we can return them (the strays) to their homes,’’ he said. ‘‘Having to license them, hopefully will make people more accountable for their animals.’’
Morrall said some catowners have already bought dog licenses for their pets. He said the need for licensing is magnified by the health issues.
‘‘Cats have the ability to carry more diseases that can be transmitted to humans than dogs,’’ he said. ‘‘Licensing would cut down some of the risk, because owners would be required to immunize their cats to obtain the license.’’
Barbara Busko, president of the Trumbull County Animal Welfare League, says Trumbull County is behind many other communities and Ohio is behind other states in regards to animal control laws.
‘‘Right now, there is a serious cat problem throughout this state, not just in Niles,’’ Busko said. ‘‘There should be some kind of penalty when people fail to get them spayed or neutered.’’
While applauding the city of Niles’ effort, she believes it should be considered a countywide problem. At some time in the future, she would like to see an appropriately sized facility built for found and rescued animals.
‘‘We don’t have enough room here to begin taking in cats,’’ Busko said. ‘‘We don’t have enough room for the dogs we are getting in now.’’
Meanwhile, Morrall has provided Niles officials with information about licensing programs in Virginia and Colorado.
Steve Kemper, animal control supervisors with the Virginia Beach Police Department, says his state’s law allows municipalities to decide on their own whether they will have cat registration.
‘‘Having cat registration has been good for us,’’ Kemper said.
Kemper said the Virginia law allows for the welfare of the animal.
‘‘If an injured cat is found that does not appear to have an owner, we will try to do what we can to save it within reason,’’ Kemper said. ‘‘If we know the cat has an owner willing to reimburse taxpayers for their funds, we’ll probably extend ourselves further.’’
Trumbull County Dog Ward Robert Campana is not sure whether he would support cat licensing.
‘‘We’re funded by state fund, so they would have to increase our funding as well as the size of our staff to include cat licensing,’’ said Campana as he also noted the already overcrowded dog pound.
‘‘We are already holding two dogs in cages designed to hold one,’’ he said.
Lisa Young, a member of the New Jersey Animal Right Alliance, said her organization encourages municipalities to consider ‘‘Trap-Neuter-Return’’ programs.
However, Young says she does not know of any cat licensing program in New Jersey that has worked well.
‘‘Generally there are low compliance rates,’’ she said. ‘‘People do not trust registration programs, because they fear the next step the government may take is limiting the number of animals a person can hold.’’