Richard Beshero said it best.
New Castle City Council last week announced it was planning to propose an ordinance that would have outlawed the feeding of stray cats. It also would have compelled those who did so not only to pay a fine, but also to participate in a trap-neuter-and-release program, potentially at their own expense.
On the night the ordinance was to be introduced, though, a group of citizens representing organizations that support or actively trap, spay/neuter, release, nurse back to health and feed felines showed up to point out that not feeding animals through the cold, winter months constitutes animal cruelty.
Council responded by agreeing to put some more thought into the ordinance, with Beshero thanking the visitors for turning out to share their thoughts, adding that “I like to see people involved in city government.”
Indeed, this is how it is supposed to work, with open and valued communication between government and the people it represents.
Furthermore, the ordinance as presented was indeed flawed. First and foremost, it would have been unenforceable without the mounting of countless security cameras or the requiring of neighbors to turn each other in. Secondly, it would have vilified what many considered to be a humane act — providing sustenance to a starving animal.
We agree with those who made that argument to council. And yet, is it humane enough? Yes, one animal may not die a slow, agonizing death from starvation. But its salvation may lead to dozens of others that do.
Hence, the value of a trap-neuter-and-release program, and while we question the propriety of forcing residents to participate, we also note that those who believe they are acting humanely by feeding feral cats are, in the long run, ultimately exacerbating the problem they think they are helping to solve.
In other words, if you’re in for a penny, be in for a pound.
Don’t just save the life of one cat and by doing so kick down the road — to animals yet unborn — the ugly fate from which you save one feline. There are many agencies who can assist with trapping and spaying or neutering. Reach out to them and find out how they can help.
We suggest looking to a mother and daughter who were profiled earlier this year by The News. Jane Fagan and Stephanie Gibbs have been rescuing cats for five years, evening fostering and seeking homes for them.
As cats show up at their Shenango Commerce Park business, Precision Feed Screws, the pair uses tuna and other bat to lure the animals into a Havahart trap, a metal cage designed to allow for safe capture, transport and release. They then take the cats to a local clinic to be neutered before releasing them.
Fagan and Gibbs pay not only for the spaying/neutering process, but also for add-on services such as deworming, rabies’ vaccinations and ear treatments. They are a model for anyone who feels the call to help homeless cats.
Ultimately, both city council and the residents who addressed it have the same goal: to reduce the number of hungry, feral cats in the city. And while we believe compassion cannot be legislated, neither should it be truncated.