Thursday, August 4, 2016

North Bay Village Scratching Post

This is a post I've been avoiding for a long time.  Any discussion of the feral cat problem in North Bay Village quickly descends into bitter arguments flying right past each other with the anti-feral cat people expressing their frustration, sometimes crudely, and the cat carers violating Godwin's Law, which states that the first person to invoke Hitler loses the argument.   But since fools rush in where angels fear to tread, here I go.  

The situation is that the village stopped Animal Control a few years back.  The Board exists in name only and there has been no serious attempt on the part of the administration to control the feral cat population.   The population has been growing from a combination of breeding and new cats being abandoned.  The problem is worse on Treasure Island.  

There is a group, small and informal, who call themselves the Cat Action Network, who feed the cats, trap them for participation in the Trap Neuter Return program and who defend their right to do so.  

Residents are concerned because there are seemingly more cats everyday and the CAN people use the public sidewalks for feeding.  When questioned, their responses can be pretty nasty. There are concerns about public health and the quality of life problems the feral cat population bring.  

While the Trap Neuter and Return Programs have been shown to reduce feral cat populations, this is only true when there are a combination of factors involved.  These factors include vigorous enforcement of anti-abandonment laws, a large scale public awareness campaign about the program so that affected residents are included in the plan, legislation that designates and controls the feeding, trapping and return areas and times, and a strong adoption and placement program.  

We don't have that.  All we have are some self appointed guardians of the cats who believe they are being kind and perhaps are, but who have taken upon themselves with no authority whatsoever to simply declare that Treasure Island is a "cat sanctuary."  It is not.  It is a neighborhood that people live in.   

The CAN does care about the cats but that's not enough.   If cats are to live in a community and the population is to be managed through TNR, it's incumbent on this group to create community support and ensure their actions are legal and in accordance with the rest of the community.  Otherwise they are just maintaining a large outdoor accommodation for their pets.   

In the Facebook Group North Bay Village Residents Speak, this subject always causes controversy.  And legitimate concerns are brushed aside with mistaken assertions about the posters who are concerned, several of whom have domestic cats and on the other side, well, some pretty nasty language has been used.   

The problem of the growing feral cat population is shared between the Village administration which has dismantled all of the boards while not addressing this problem, and the Cat Action Network, who if they did not cause the problem, have certainly made it worse by their unilateral decision to make other people's property a cat habitat without legal sanction and without regard for the people affected.  
It's time to stop the craziness.   There is an election coming up.  Ask each candidate what they plan to do to balance the needs of the community with the desire to control and protect the feral cat population.  If the candidate is an incumbent, ask what actions they have already taken and why is the problem getting worse?   Demand that the city take charge of the problem.  

For the Cat Action Network, I get it.  You like the cats.   But these are feral cats and they live in a community.  You should be working with the village and the community to create a useful and comprehensive program.  I have heard the argument that you spend your own money and time to feed and TNR the cats.  I have hobbies too.  But I don't expect my neighbors and government to pay for them.  And that's what you're doing when you unilaterally turn someone else's neighborhood into a cat sanctuary without involving them.  You are pursuing a hobby.  And I might add that most of you don't even live here.  Stand up and do the right thing if you really give a damn.  

Kevin Vericker
August 4, 2016

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