Cat advocates in the city of Urbana, Ohio, spoke out strongly in January against a proposed ordinance that would punish community cat caregivers with a misdemeanor crime for feeding community cats. The Urbana City Council listened, then unanimously voted down the ordinance.
Now, council members say they plan to form a committee to discuss the best way forward—with representatives from local Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) groups eager to be involved.
“I think they had absolutely no clue that so many of their citizens had such a passion for cats,” says Rebecca Hoffman, an advocate with local organization Calico TNR. “Between the citizens and the outside groups like Alley Cat Allies and everyone who called and emailed them, we sent a big message that we weren’t going to tolerate this feeding ban.”
Some 50 advocates attended a January 2 meeting on the ordinance to testify in support of TNR and explain the cruelty and futility of feeding bans. The advocates came out in full force again at another meeting on January 16, saying they would not stand for measures that would punish Good Samaritans for feeding colonies and doing TNR. The City Council heard them loud and clear.
“I think all of council feels that TNR is a much better approach to a feral cat problem than a feeding ban,” said Urbana Second Ward Councilman Cledis Scott.
The committee is expected to form by late February. Though no TNR groups have been officially named to the committee yet, local organizations Calico TNR and Black & Orange Cat Foundation are among those that expressed interest.
Interestingly, the feeding ban was initially considered in December 2017 to stop people from feeding deer and geese in Urbana, says Council President Marty Hess. He says the city received multiple complaints of drivers hitting deer, which officials blamed on citizens leaving out corn and salt licks for the animals. When the proposed ordinance was introduced, community cats were included as an “afterthought” in response to complaints of cats getting into residents’ gardens.
As cat advocates pointed out at the meetings on the ordinance, feeding bans are entirely ineffective for managing community cat populations. Cats will always find another food source if not fed by individuals. These food sources are often even more visible to the public, like garbage cans and dumpsters.
TNR is the only humane and effective solution to managing cat populations, and feeding bans only discourage citizens from carrying out the practice. In a community in which dedicated TNR groups and advocates have spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and cared for hundreds of community cats, a feeding ban would be an unacceptable hindrance to their lifesaving work.
“My biggest hope is that the Council will separate [in legislation] cats from the geese and deer, because they should not all be grouped together,” says Hoffman. “TNR is really all that’s necessary. We don’t need to figure out how to reduce the community cat population. We already figured that out. All we need is for them to leave us to it or help us.”
Alley Cat Allies thanks the Urbana City Council for listening to and respecting the will of their citizens, and for council members’ willingness to explore better solutions. We encourage the city to work closely with TNR advocates and bolster their efforts. Alley Cat Allies will continue to monitor Urbana’s progress and keep you updated.