MEDINA, Ohio (WJW) – Medina City Council on Monday will be considering legislation that would make it illegal to feed stray and wild animals if it contributes to those animals becoming a nuisance for neighbors.
The ordinance is something that Councilman Bill Lamb tells Fox 8 News he and his colleagues on council have been working on in committee for several years with representatives of the city’s law department.
Council President John Coyne II says it was modeled after similar laws in other communities.
The proposal would make it a minor misdemeanor to feed animals like raccoons which can make their way into neighbors’ attics and trash cans, deer which can destroy neighbors’ gardens and shrubbery, and other wild animals that would typically have a natural instinct to stay away from people.
“More than half of the residents like to watch the wildlife but they don’t like the aftermath, the fecal matter on the yard, you can’t use the yard with the feeding of the wild animals. They go on other people’s property,” said Council member Paul Rose who points out that when you go into a national or state park visitors are advised not to feed the animals.
But animal advocates strongly object to including companion animals like dogs and cats in the legislation.
“I do understand the destructive nature of feeding deer,” said Judi Summers who was helping to organize a rally outside of Medina City Hall before Monday’s meeting.
“Cats and dogs, they are not equipped without our intercession to survive. That’s why rescues exist, instead of perpetuating the cruelty,” said Summers.
The Medina County APL says it took in more than 1,000 cats last year and estimates at least 75-percent of them were strays.
Many of the strays were house pets that were set free by their owners and knew only how to be fed by their human owners.
“They are used to being fed by people, so they don’t know on average how to go out and hunt and look for food and they are going to keep hanging around looking for somebody to feed them,” said Tracey Miller, the APL Director of Operations.
Council members say the law is misunderstood.
“The ordinance does not prohibit the feeding of animals altogether. You are still allowed to feed wild animals, dogs, cats, deer, geese, but you are not allowed to cause damage or contribute to the damage of your neighbor’s property of another or create a public or private nuisance,” said Coyne. “I think the question of why its included (dogs and cats) is because they can still create damage to others property. That does not prohibit them from feeding them and the social media sites I’ve seen and the emails that I’m receiving they jump to the conclusion that it prohibits 100-percent from feeding these companion animals and that is not the case.” he added.
Coyne says the threshold for a legal burden of proof is also high.
“You would have to prove it’s the same deer eating your garden as the ones that they are feeding. Now that’s another challenge, a legal challenge you know you have to have all these elements in place, so it is difficult,” said Coyne.
Coyne believes the bottom line of the proposed ordinance is that people need to be considerate of their neighbors.
“Everybody should be aware that you should keep your neighbor in mind when you are doing something and to make sure that you don’t disturb your neighbor’s property because their property is just as important as your property.”