LAKE COUNTY, Ohio-- A cat controversy’s growing in two Lake County communities after proposed ordinances banning the feeding of feral cats.
City leaders in both Mentor and Kirtland have discussed the issue publicly and introduced bills that would make it illegal to feed homeless and stray cats, after a number of complaints from their respective citizens.
At a Jan. 17 council meeting in Mentor, one homeowner held up a stack of veterinary bills claiming his dog has become repeatedly sick from the amount of feline feces on his sidewalk and in his backyard.
Lake County Director of Environmental Health Dan Lark said, they always advise people not to feed or shelter any wild animal.
And when it comes to the cats Lark said, “If a person is bit or scratched it can lead to serious disease and it could be hard to locate the animal.”
But many animal activists call the measure a cruel and unnecessary measure that could escalate the problem.
“People think, well if we don’ feed them, they’ll go away,” said Cindy Valerio, “But that is not what happens at all; in fact, it might even make it worse.”
Valerio says, many of the stray cats were once pets, and will continue to look for food, possibly knocking over trash cans or becoming more aggressive around people.
“I have been on both sides of this issue,” said Valerio, who started a non-profit rescue group after a neighbor began feeding multiple feral cats. ”I was concerned about the number of cats.”
Several years ago, Valerio started a non-profit group called Community Cat Companions.
They focus on humanely reducing feral cat populations across Northeast Ohio using measures that have been proven to work; not only lowering the numbers but also the risk of any illnesses being spread.
It’s called TNR or Trap, Neuter and Return.
Her volunteers round up the stray cats and start by getting them vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
Next, any animals that can be are out adopted, and the rest are safely released.
“Then there are no more kittens and over time the colonies will dwindle,” said Valerio.
Valerio and others have been speaking with leaders in both Mentor and Kirtland, who say, right now, they are open to all information and options.
Additional public hearings are planned on Feb. 6 in Kirtland and Feb. 7 in Mentor.