Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Help Me Howard: Cats
A pet lover thought she was doing the right thing by feeding some stray cats, but turns out it was the wrong thing to do in one city. Now she's hungry for some help from Howard.
Gretchen Sheehan: "I love animals. I'm sorry, I just love them. It just hurts me so much when something happens to them."
So it's no surprise that when a friend who feeds stray cats told her about a pair near here, Gretchen volunteered to step in.
Gretchen Sheehan: "That she could not get down there so she asked me if I can help her out and that's how it all started."
These are the two cats Gretchen has been feeding for nearly three years.
Gretchen Sheehan: "That Samson and him and Cinnamon are real. Actually they fight sometimes but even brothers and sisters fight sometimes so that's not so unusual."
Gretchen said the two cats were trapped and a notch put on their ears to show they were spayed and then to make sure it was OK to feed them, Gretchen spoke to the owner of the empty building.
Gretchen Sheehan: "Yes I did. I had permission from the owner to feed the cats. He even gave me a key to one of the vacated buildings."
Years passed by. A hole was created for the cats to come and go and then one day a city official showed up.
Gretchen Sheehan: "He said, 'you feeding the cats?', 'Yeah', I said. 'Who are you?', and he told me his name was Jason and that he was from Animal Control."
Gretchen was told feeding the stray cats was illegal in Pompano Beach and then the Animal Control officer accused her of stealing two traps he put out to catch the cats and a video camera to record the person feeding them.
Gretchen Sheehan: "'I don't even know what the camera looks like', I said. 'What are you taking about? I don't know anything about that. Why don't you search my car?' So he did."
Gretchen got a $50 violation. That bothered her. Leaving samson and Cinnamon behind, devastated her.
Gretchen Sheehan: "They would see our car. They would come running up to the car and so happy to see us. You know, it's heartbreaking."
Gretchen believes it's wrong to block her from feeding the cats and wrong to fine her because the cats are spayed, on private property and the owner gave her permission to feed what you could call his cats.
Gretchen Sheehan: "I was just so shocked Patrick. I just couldn't believe what was happening. We were just doing a simple thing by taking care of these beautiful cats."
Well Howard, can you feed stray cats if you have the property owners permission?
Howard Finkelstein: "There is no state law regarding feeding stray cats. So each city is free to pass their own law. In Pompano Beach, even if the cat is spayed and the owner gives you permission to feed them on their property, the city gave themselves the power to fine you."
Pompano Beach told us a nearby business owner had complained about the cats. They said to feed feral cats or dogs in the city you have to get a permit. And before it's issued, the feeder must provide written permission from the property owner, permission from adjoining property owners, confine the animals to the feeding location, sterilize, vaccinate, microchip and document reduction in the number of animals.
The city added, even if the animal is spayed its considered feral since its living at large is loose and untamed.
Howard Finkelstein: "Pompano Beach's law tries to strike a balance between those that want to feed feral cats and those who want to get rid of them. Of course requiring the cat lovers to get a permit and care for the cats is expensive, but the city is trying to avoid health problems and diseases that can come from stray cats roaming a neighborhood."
Gretchen disagrees with Howard and thinks Pompano Beach is making it almost impossible to feed the cats, which will force people to continue to break the law.
Gretchen Sheehan: "I just want people to be aware the unfairness that is being dealt out and cats are being taken in and euthanized."
No-one wants to see the animals die, but at Help Me Howard, we hear from both sides. Like the person who lived next to a neighbor feeding 20 cats, that was a mess.
The simple solution, years and years of spaying and people adopting stray cats and dogs.
Trapped in trouble that's left you going a stray? Want someone to feed you a solution? Contact us. And hopefully get a purr-fect end. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser 7news.
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