City mulls solutions for feeding of outdoor animals, including feral cats

By John Hamilton -

WILMINGTON — Feral cats continue to be an issue for the city’s Judiciary Committee to consider.

The topic was brought up during a special meeting on Monday where a resident had told Wilmington City Council that a while back their neighbor was allowing cats in and out of his garage, where they’re fed; this resulted in around 50 to 60 cats coming around.

This wasn’t an issue for the resident at first, according to committee chairperson Matt Purkey, until that resident raked his leaves in the fall and got fleas.

“He was wondering if there was any sort of recourse the city could take. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot,” said Purkey.

Purkey said he looked into what had been done in the past with something like this — mainly a catch-and-release program — and he noted it was something the city couldn’t fund.

He did discover ways cities try to stamp out the problem — with an ordinance prohibiting outdoor feeding. He pointed out West Carrollton, which had a problem with animals like skunks and raccoons eating food left out for pets.

“The only real solution I had been able to find was this,” he said. “I hate when a citizen has a concern that’s out of their control and we don’t have a law or anything there to help them.”

A concern of his was that an outdoor feeding ordinance would not be enforceable and would rely on “neighbors ratting on other neighbors because nobody puts cat food out on the front porch, its always the back yard.”

Adding that while, in a way, he could see this fixing the feral cat problem, he feels that it may be a “bridge too far” and may not be enforceable.

According to him, while the council had passed immediate unenforceable ordinances before —citing one for dangerous dogs — he noted that it at least gave them some grounds for going after the owner.

Safety/Service Director Brian Shidaker told the committee that he viewed it as a public health issue that should be handled by the city’s health department.

“Unfortunately they disagree,” said Shidaker. “I’ve seen other health departments handle it in other communities. I firmly believe this is a public health issue that should be handled by (the health department’s) agency, and unfortunately, that’s not happening.”

The committee ultimately decided to table the discussion and bring it up at the next city council meeting on Thursday.

By John Hamilton

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574