New Prince George’s law takes a swipe at feral cat population -- Gazette.Net







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Prince George’s County Council passed a bill that changes how the county handles loose cats.

The measure, which passed Nov. 20 in a 7 to 1 vote, allows animal control officers who come across ear tipped cats — those with an ear cropped to indicate they have been spayed or neutered — to release them back into the wild rather than returning them to the county’s animal control facility in Upper Marlboro. Traditionally, cats would be taken back to be euthanized if not claimed. As part of the new policy, ear tipped cats brought to the shelter will be held for up to three days to allow time for local pet advocacy groups to claim them and be handed over at no cost, said Rodney Taylor, associate director of the county’s Animal Management Division, part of the county’s Department of Environmental Resources.

Councilwoman Mary Lehman (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel proposed the bill in June.

Each month the county’s animal shelter picks up about 120 to 150 wild cats and 80 percent are euthanized, Taylor said. The county’s animal shelter hadn’t kept records of the number of ear-tipped cats, but in response to the legislation, the organization began keeping records in recent months, he said. Of the animals taken in during September and October, as many as 12 were ear tipped, he said.

The fact that the policy, which takes effect in January allows wild cats back on the streets was criticized by various speakers who said the creatures are a nuisance to residents and property owners as they can leave rubbish and waste on private property.

Mount Rainier already has a feral cat problem and this measure wouldn’t help, said Kevin Simpson, a city code enforcement officer.

County Councilman Will Campos (D-Dist. 2) of Hyattsville, said he voted against the measure given the opposition by the city, which is also in his district.

“I never thought this would be such a controversial issue and divide so many in our community,” he said.

The move should ultimately reduce the feral cat population as they keep other cats from entering their territory, said Will Gomaa, an attorney representing Bethesda-based Alley Cat Allies, a cat advocacy organization.

“The population reduces over time from attrition as the cats die of natural causes,” Gomaa said. “It can vary in different places. “It depends on the size of the colony.”

Midge Cruz of Greenbelt said she was concerned there were no regulations as to where the cats could be released.

“This bill basically gives the [DER] folks carte blanche [of where they’ll release ear tipped cats],” Cruz said.

Taylor said how cats would be released is still being determined.

To address resident concerns, the act does contain a provision requiring the county’s animal control officers to brief the council at least once a year about the program status and the number of animals impacted, Lehman said.

“I will be looking very closely at this next year,” said County Councilman Obie Patterson (D-Dist. 8) of Fort Washington