Urbana debates banning feeding feral cats

The city of Urbana is debating whether or not to make it illegal for people to feed feral cats.

More than 50 people showed up to a city council meeting last week to oppose a proposed ordinance the seeks to ban providing food, water or shelter to wild animals, making it a minor misdemeanor.

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The issue was brought up because of deer, City Council President Marty Hess said. The city has a problem with wildlife because it is in a rural area, he said.

“We figured if we could eliminate feeding the deer in town it wouldn’t attract them to the town,” Hess said.

It could be a problem to catch a person breaking the law, he said, but it’s one that needs to be in the books.

“We put the cats in as an afterthought because we have a lot of people that complain that wild cats are getting into their gardens,” Hess said.

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The recent council meeting was the second reading for the proposal and council members agreed to table the issue after the meeting. Dozens of people like cat advocate Rebecca Hoffman showed up to voice their concern. She has done volunteer work with various groups in the area like Barely Used Pet Rescue, Black and Orange Cat Foundation and Calico TNR.

“It is not conducive to humans or cats to restrict feeding,” Hoffman said.

The city has a typical feral cat population, she said, and not feeding them is inhumane. That’s why other solutions were presented to the council.

“We have done a lot of trap, neuter and release in this area and we have greatly decreased the number of cats in this town,” Hoffman said.

The council decided to table the ordinance after hearing of the new options, Hess said, and form a committee to look at them. It will be made up of people who came to the meeting and some council members. It’s also possible other forms of livestock could be added.

The ordinance will be brought up again at the end of February at a city council work session and reintroduced in March. If passed on the third reading, it will become law by May.

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