CODE HOME RULE 5-2009
September 29, 2009
A public hearing was held today at 9:30 a.m. in the County Commissioners’ Hearing Room, R. Clayton Mitchell, Jr. Kent County Government Center, Chestertown, Maryland, on Code Home Rule Bill No. #5-2009 which is an act to repeal and re-enact with amendments, Chapter 64, Article I (“Domestic Animals”), Sections 64-1 through 64-10 of the Code of Public Local Laws of Kent County, Maryland (Ed. 2005), adding definitions for “cat,” “feral cat,” “feral cat caregiver,” “feral cat colony,” “managed feral cat colony;” and “trap-neuter-return program”; providing responsibilities and standards of care for feral cat caregivers and animal control officers; providing for registration of feral cat colonies; and making certain stylistic and technical changes. This legislation was introduced at the request of the Kent County Council of Governments.
County Commissioners Roy Crow and Ronald Fithian, Susanne Hayman, County Administrator, and Thomas Yeager, County Attorney, were in attendance as well as, Ed Birkmire, Executive Director, Humane Society of Kent County Inc., John Beskid, Kent County Health Department Environmental Director and approximately 20 interested persons and two members of the media.
Commissioner Crow read the Notice of Public Hearing and procedures for testimony into the record.
The following persons submitted testimony on the proposed bill:
Timothy Lloyd, Kennedyville resident, stated that he was an animal control officer in Cecil County for 2 years and in his research Cecil and Queen Anne’s County, the DNR, US Fish & Wildlife, PETA, The Audubon Society, and the State are all opposed to a TNR (trap, neuter, & return) program.
Commissioner Fithian questioned if Mr. Lloyd had another solution to offer. Mr. Lloyd suggested that in order to stop free range cats, language should be added to require them to be confined to a cage or kennel; if not, people could be made liable.
Clyde Warden of Betterton, stated that the language “feral cat caregivers were to make reasonable good faith efforts to have cats neutered” is ambiguous. Property owners suffer greatly with the issue of free roaming cats and he felt that the ordinance should require cat owners to license cats just like dogs owners are required to do.
Joan Zellers of Betterton questioned the enforcement policy in the proposed legislation. She stated that she lives in an area with approximately 35 cats roaming within a 2 block area as well as on her boat. She feels that cats should be licensed to identify those cats that are owned and ones that are feral. She feels the proposed law is a good start and thanked the Commissioners for their effort.
She also questioned who will be the enforcing agency. Commissioner Fithian stated that enforcement will fall with the Humane Society if the town adopts what the County is proposing.
John F. Toulson, Rock Hall Council Member, stated that the Rock Hall Mayor and Council felt that the proposed ordinance lacked substance and would like to see the wording changed to provide stricter regulations for the confinement of cats.
Mr. Yeager stated for the record that most of the incorporated towns already have local laws to allow for the adoption of any ordinance adopted by the County.
Commissioner Fithian stated that he has heard from three different people so far who think the language needs to be changed and he would like to receive suggested language for consideration. Ms. Hayman stated that possibly the County Council of Governments could make some suggestions since they requested the modification of the ordinance.
Daniel Taylor of Rock Hall stated that he and his wife purchased a home in order to make improvements and to place it back on the market. He has not been able to do that because a feral cat colony is being cared for next door, which was not in existence when he purchased the property. He complained as to problems being experienced on his property by the feral cats.
Sharon Rushton, President of Really Great Cats Rescue, Inc., stated that there is no incentive for the “caregivers of feral cats” to register and that too much paperwork is involved. She stated that the “feral cat caregivers” should be exempt from fines and that TNR does work but they will need help from the county. Registration will not help the problem or stop reproduction. She asked that the Commissioners rethink the proposal as a large scale spay and neuter program.
Linda Dulak, member of Really Great Cats Rescue, Inc., (RGCR) asked what will happen to the cats after they are trapped. She stated that the ordinance states that the Humane Society will hold the cats for 8 days, then if not adopted, it becomes a trap and kill program. The costs will run approximately $175 per cat in contrast to a trap, neuter, and release program run by volunteers which would cost approximately $60 to $75 per cat. She stated that RGCR spends $20,000 per year to spay and neuter but it is not enough. She questioned Chapter 64-10.2(c) which states that the Humane Society will transport a sick or injured cat. Ms. Dulak questioned what happens to the cats that are not sick or injured.
Jeannine Marsey, a longtime volunteer with RGCR stated that she was speaking as a voter and taxpayer. She felt that more record keeping was not the answer but rather a low cost spay and neuter program. She suggested partnering with the Kent Island spay/neuter van and pursuing PetSmart charitable contributions. She also stated that one Kent County veterinarian travels to another county to participate in a low cost spay and neuter program and encouraged a similar program in Kent County. She urged the Commissioners to spend money in this effort rather than having the Humane Society mandated to become a police force and paper pusher.
Holly Childs of Rock Hall and Really Great Cats Rescue, Inc. stated that she is a caregiver of a feral cat colony near Bayside Foods and the New Yarmouth Restaurant in Rock Hall. Her colony has grown because of abandoned cats. She would like to see a law to address abandonment of cats and feels that TNR program is the way to go. At this time, she is trying to relocate the feral cat colony in Rock Hall.
Coby Stohrer of Chestertown stated that one point is being totally missed. Maintaining cat colonies is extremely destructive to wildlife. Even when a feral cat has food, it will kill wildlife first and then return to the food being provided. TNR cat colonies should be considered a public nuisance; even PETA does not promote TNR. He feels that the feral cats should be trapped and if not adopted within a certain period of time, they should be euthanized.
John Beskid, Environmental Health Officer, stated that he felt that the feral cat colonies should be contained; with the exception of those colonies on farms. He stated that any program initiated will require funding and any effective program will take time to resolve this issue.
Ed Birkmire, Executive Director, Humane Society of Kent County, Inc. stated that the Humane Society fully supports the ordinance as stated. In addition, no funding will be requested from the county to adopt the TNR program in FY2010. Mr. Birkmire stated that in 2004, all the incorporated towns gave up their local ordinances which gave them the ability to enforce their rights. The towns need a tool to enforce what is necessary. Spay and Neuter is a long term solution and this legislation would provide for a short term solution. He stated to do nothing would be true abuse. The ordinance must address the public nuisance and the feral cat colonies.
Commissioner Crow reiterated that written comments will be accepted through October 2.
Commissioner Fithian stated his disappointment that the towns asked for the county’s help in amending the ordinance and three of the fire towns were not present nor presented written comments or testified. He felt the staff had made a good faith effort and welcomed suggestions.
Correspondence dated September 25, was received from Mrs. William Morrison of Conley Drive in opposition to the passage of the bill because it provides no funding for the TNR program but in her opinion, added another layer of bureaucracy with the requirement of registration of feral cat colonies and feral cat caregivers. She felt that the bill would not provide any long-term solution to the goal of reducing the number of feral cats in Kent County.
Written comments were also received for the record from Edward Birkmire, Executive Director, Kent County Humane Society, Inc., and Clyde Warden.
Comments will be accepted on this proposed legislation until Friday, October 2, 2009.
This hearing was taped for reference and adjourned at 10:49 a.m.
THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
OF KENT COUNTY MARYLAND
Janice F. Fletcher
Roy W. Crow, President