Cat controversy in Radnor Township

March 21, 2011 9:21:55 PM PDT
There's a dispute going on in Radnor Township over the care and feeding of stray cats. The township wants to make it illegal.

The idea is to amend the language of an existing ordinance that already covers dogs and to extend it to cats that roam free.

The township Board of Health says this measure protects the health and safety of both humans and animals, but critics worry it's a cruel and ineffective way to control the feral cat population.

Joe and Kathy Siciliano of Rosemont care for a colony of five feral cats. They all had been trapped from the wild, neutered, vaccinated, and released back into the neighborhood.

The Sicilianos provide food and shelter as the cats come and go.

"We care for them, watch out for them, we monitor them so we know that they're healthy, and they're well cared for cats," Joe said.

What this family believes is the most humane way to control their community's cat population might soon be illegal with an amended ordinance on the table for Radnor Township banning free-roaming cats.

It's a measure supported whole-heartedly by the Sicilianos' neighbor at the township's Public Health Subcommittee meeting.

"My entire front garden was covered in cat feces, I was unable to weed without coming into contact with cat feces, my front yard smelled of cat feces and cat urine," Rosement resident Laura Martin said at the meeting.

Committee members explain that, in general, animals at large can pose health risks.

But doctors attending the meeting said cats, specifically, can be exposed to animals, like bats and raccoons, as they roam outside at night that could increase their risk of rabies.

The ordinance states that feeding animals constitutes ownership, which means that cats would need to stay on the homeowner's property.

The Sicilianos worry what this measure would mean for stray cats, but also pets that might go lost without a collar.

"We won't necessarily go around the township rounding up cats that are at large, but, if and when a cat is found to be a nuisance and is, in fact, causing a direct problem, that we certainly have a recourse to address that issue, presently we have no recourse," John Fisher, President of the Board of Commissioners, said.

Fisher told Action News that euthanization is a last resort and, more likely, the cats would be released back into the wild, though maybe not in the populated neighborhood they came from. Owners would have time to claim their lost animal.

Action News is told there will be other opportunities for public comment, likely in the next month.