The Maplewood Township Committee voted tonight to introduce an ordinance that would allow for a trap/neuter/return program for feral cats in the township for a pilot period of three years.
The Committee introduced the ordinance by a vote of 4-1, with Committeeman Marlon K. Brownlee dissenting.
A second reading of the ordinance and a hearing before a final vote will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 5.
Read the full ordinance here.
The idea for the ordinance and program began a year ago, when a group of Maplewood residents presented it to the Township Committee in response to a growing problem with feral cats throughout town. Health Officer Robert Roe and Township Committeewoman India Larrier, president of the board of health, worked with Furry Hearts Rescue to draft the resolution.
The town’s current feral cat ordinance, adopted in 2010, prohibits anyone from feeding stray, unlicensed cats. The new ordinance will allowed individuals who register with the program to feed feral cats so long as they abide by stipulations of the program such as trapping and neutering the cats over the age of 12 weeks, taking food in after one hour, vaccinating cats against rabies, and taking care of sick cats. Furry Hearts, a newly formed organization, will oversee the program.
Brownlee went on at length over his objections to the ordinance, calling it “well meaning but misguided.” Brownlee said he had been researching trap/neuter/return programs and found information from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Centers for Disease Control, among others, that spoke unfavorably of such programs.
Brownlee said he also felt that the proposed ordinance did not lay out benchmarks or goals. “We wouldn’t strike a deal with a developer and figure out the terms and conditions afterwards,” said Brownlee.
Brownlee also objected to the fact that Furry Hearts had no track record in running such a program.
“I agree that something needs to be done, but bottom line I’m not convinced that this is what should be done,” said Brownlee. “I will be voting against this ordinance.”
Others disagreed. Committeewoman India Larrier said that she was working with the American Veterinary Medical Association to come up with benchmarks. Likewise, Mayor Vic DeLuca said benchmarks existed: “Mr. Roe can provide some information about some base line data on what we are spending and what we have spent before…. This is going to kick in in 2015. That becomes a benchmark. We know the number of cats picked up, the number brought to shelter…. I think we can use that as a base line.”
Committeeman Jerry Ryan said he would vote to introduce the ordinance but that he shared some of Brownlee’s concerns. Ryan said he would vote “yes” for now but “continue to read a little more deeply” before the final hearing and vote on Nov. 5.
Deputy Mayor Kathy Leventhal spoke strongly in favor of the ordinance: “I think we have been able to with the help of Furry Hearts craft a pilot that gives us a humane way of dealing with the problem.”
Larrier stressed that the progam was only a pilot. “Nothing says we will definitely adopt it at the end of three years.” She concluded, “I will be voting for it.”
But Brownlee felt that once the program was adopted it would continue: “No-one is going to want to stop the program in three years.”
Mayor Vic DeLuca said that when he first heard of the program he was not in favor. “I didn’t want the stray cats in my back yard returning.” However, DeLuca said he was willing to try the program. “I think we have a strong community group and that their support is substantial in town. With this program and the support of Furry Hearts, I think we might make a difference.”
DeLuca said he was voting to introduce the ordinance and would vote to pass it on Nov. 5.