Tyrone forbids feeding feral cats

TYRONE — Borough Council on Monday amended its animal ordinance, prohibiting the feeding of stray or feral cats — with some exceptions — in response to recent complaints about feral cats making a mess and damaging property around the 400 block of 18th Street.

The prohibition applies when feeding “causes a nuisance to neighbors or creates a condition contrary to the health, safety and welfare of the community” — unless the feeding is being done in the context of a Trap, Neuter & Return program managed by the borough or a borough-authorized organization, the amended ordinance states.

After the meeting, an attendee fretted about the borough “killing cats.”

“We’re not going to kill cats,” Borough Manager Ardean Latchford said.

The old animal ordinance was deemed inadequate, as it did little more than prohibit the “owner, custodian or keeper” of cats from allowing them to become a “nuisance” — running at large, creating a disturbance, defacing property or leaving excrement.

The old ordinance “didn’t have claws,” said Mayor Bill Latchford, Ardean’s brother.

The amended ordinance also prohibits owners from allowing cats — including domestic cats, presumably — from running “free outside the residence,” unless the cat has been spayed or neutered and “tipped” on the left ear to indicate the operation has occurred and unless it has been immunized against rabies.

The amended ordinance authorizes police and code officers — code officers were added upon the suggestion of Police Chief John Romeo — to seize any cat that is in violation and to turn that cat over to an “appropriate” shelter or rescue group.

If the animal is unlicensed and remains unclaimed for 48 hours, the organization can dispose of it according to its regular procedures.

If an animal is licensed, the organization must wait at least five days after notification of the owner, before disposal.

No animal may be conveyed for vivisection or research.

Animal welfare organizations can seek to become sponsors of TNR programs by applying to the borough.

Such sponsors must register the cat colonies they plan to manage and keep records.

Violations are summary offenses that carry a fine of up to $600, with failure to pay resulting in up to 30 days in jail.

Like other code ordinances in the borough, the amended ordinance will be complaint-driven, Manager Latchford said.

“If any resident thinks we’ll send (Codes Director) Marvin (Frazell) out like a rabid dog” to nab violators, that resident is mistaken, Latchford said.

Asked by the mayor how a complainant can prove there’s a violation, Manager Latchford suggested taking photos.

The prohibition against feeding feral cats will work, the mayor predicted.

There was once a problem with ducks at Reservoir Park, he said.

The ducks were not only being fed but were being provided with straw bedding by residents, he said.

They understandably stayed put instead of migrating, he said.

Their excrement made a mess for borough workers, the manager said.

“It was nasty,” he said.

But a prohibition against feeding them was enacted and they went away, the mayor said.