Cat-lovers take on Palmerton ordinance
Those who love animals were horrified to learn that in the borough of Palmerton a person can be cited and fined for feeding wandering cats.
Although they view their actions as acts of humaneness and compassion, some others do not. Some residents complain that those who put out food for these feral animals are encouraging an unhealthy situation to persist. They cite nuisance behaviors, such as urinating and defecating in neighbors’ yards or gardens, jumping on vehicles and frightening owners’ indoor cats and other pets.
The topic of feeding stray cats has been passionately debated in the community since the tough ordinance was enacted in 2017, but now it is coming to a head as borough officials and those who want to protect these animals try to reach an accommodation that involves compromise through a process of conversation and an exchange of ideas. (Federal officials, please note: This is how government is supposed to work.)
A standing-room-only crowd at a borough council meeting last week showed just how hot this topic has become. While trying to work out a compromise, there is action on the judicial front, too.
District Magisterial Judge William Kissner, heard arguments earlier this month in the case of FayeAnn Reiner, one of several borough residents cited. The judge has up to 90 days to make a decision on whether to uphold the citation.
Also cited was Sandy Buchalter, who is facing a fine and costs of $123.25 for having a feeding station. She said she was unaware of the ordinance, noting that she has been feeding the cats for years.
Council has agreed to suspend enforcement of the ordinance until the two sides have a chance to work out a compromise, possibly at a meeting coming up this week.
Peter Luzzo, the borough’s animal enforcement officer, is caught between a rock and a hard place. His job is to investigate complaints and issue citations if he finds the complaints valid.
One of the organizations that has been urging a modification of the borough’s ordinance is Palmerton Cat Project. Its president, Barbara Greenzweig, says the organization has been promoting a “trap, neuter, release” program, which, she believes, will ultimately reduce the feral cat population.
TNR, as it is known throughout the animal world, is a nonlethal method of reducing the number of cats and improving the quality of life for them, wildlife, even people. It involves the humane trapping of these animals, neutering them, vaccinating them against rabies, surgically removing the tip of one ear (the universal sign of a cat that has been spayed or neutered), and returning the animal to its habitat.
Since a female cat can become pregnant as early as 5 months old, the number of feral cats in a neighborhood can increase rapidly if the animals are not neutered.
Last year, Greenzweig said, members trapped 52 cats, neutered them and gave them shots. Another 39 felines were captured, medically cleared and put up for adoption. She and other animal group representatives believe it is cruel and inhumane to institutionalize the practice of denying food and water to these animals, and, in the process, sentencing them to death by starvation, especially during harsh winter weather.
The Palmerton ordinance specifically bans feeding stations. The ordinance also prohibits creating conditions attractive to nuisance animals. Among these are the “feeding, baiting or in any manner providing access to food …” Also arguing for a change of policy at last week’s council meeting was Carbon County Humane Officer Donna Crum of Palmerton. Explaining that this should not be an us versus them issue, she told council members there should be rules, but they must be humane.
I agree with her view that trap, neuter and release not only can work in concert with a modified existing ordinance but actually goes above and beyond the ordinance’s objectives and becomes a workable strategy with which everyone can live.
By Bruce Frassinelli | firstname.lastname@example.org