Weed council passes law controlling feeding of feral cats

Mike Meyer
Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers

The Weed City Council passed an ordinance controlling the feeding of feral cats, during its meeting Thursday night.

The homeless cats have been a problem around Weed for years, but recently have increased into colonies of 30 and 40.

With the ordinance, feeding is banned on public property, but can be done on private property with the consent of the property owner. Violations are a misdemeanor, with penalties of up to a $500 and/or jail time for up to six months.

A feral cat "lives permanently outside of a domestic home and is not owned and cared for as a typical companion animal or pet, as a result of having been born feral, abandoned by an owner, or rendered homeless, wild or stray by any other means," according to the ordinance.

During three council meetings since May during which ferals were discussed and debated, it became clear that many Weed residents and the volunteers who try to care for ferals around Siskiyou County were anguished by the situation. Some residents have adopted a cat or two into their homes to become pets. Volunteers may care for many cats.

The solutions discussed by the city and public ranged from feeding the ferals in one's yard; feeder stations; adopting or finding homes for them, and trapping, spaying-or-neutering and re-releasing them; to not spaying/neutering/releasing; not feeding — and thus letting them fend for themselves when they often starve, and putting them to sleep.

Other than adoption or finding homes, none of the solution protects the felines from the conditions they endure until their deaths in the alleys or under the woodpiles, sheds, and houses or other shelter they can hide under.

Living as ferals, the cats freeze and starve, contact disease and pass it on, and are terrorized, attacked and mauled or killed by raccoons and coyotes attracted to the feeder stations.

Whether fed by volunteers or concerned residents — yet otherwise left on their own, the felines suffer out their days in the dire conditions in feral cat environments, according to city reports and public accounts.

As at the previous meetings when the subject was discussed, several members of the public spoke to the council Thursday night when invited by the mayor.

One woman, who said she is against the ordinance, called on people "to have compassion and respect for life."

Another woman, identifying herself as a wildlife biologist, read statistics about the billions of "birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians" in the wild that are killed by feral cats each year.

The next woman asked: "How many plant and animal deaths are we responsible for? People are much more responsible for killing animals than feral cats."

A man said the ordinance didn't go far enough. "You need to trap, euthanize and dispose ... that's more humane than releasing them back into the same situation."

But a few speakers later, a woman said it upset her "that people even think that way" in regard to the euthanasia comment. She then demanded of the council: "What are you going to do about people who keep their animals outside, who move away and abandon their animals?"

More than half the speakers Thursday night were against the ordinance.

Mayor Susan Tavelero reminded them that, with the approval of the property owner, "It's completely legal to have a feeding station on private property."

The city had originally considered the ordinance with a total prohibition of feeding, on both public and private property.

In the end, Councilmember Ken Palafini said that feral cats were "a problem without a perfect solution. You're not going to make all the parties happy. I think this is the best we have."

He made a motion to approve the ordinance, and then the council vote 5-0 to make it the law.