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Crowd Questions W.O. Feral Cat Ordinance

By Sarah Turnbull
The Tube City Almanac
February 23, 2021
Posted in: White Oak News

A large crowd attended Monday’s White Oak borough council meeting to raise concerns over an recently enacted feral cat ordinance.

More than two dozen people, some of whom had to stand for lack of chairs, attended to discuss the impact of the ordinance, enacted by council in December.

The ordinance requires cat owners to vaccinate their own anials against rabies, as well as to have their cats neutered or spayed and tipped. The ordinance also makes it unlawful to continue feeding or keeping feral cats if it causes a nuisance to neighbors.

Several people on Monday questioned whether the ordinance was legal or could withstand a court challenge.

Jill Henkel, a councilwoman in Turtle Creek borough, said that she cares for a colony of feral cats. She told White Oak officials caretakers are not the problem.

“Citing caretakers is not the way,” Henkel said, arguing White Oak “(needs) to rescind this ordinance.”

Dr. Becky Mara, a veterinarian, said cat lovers and borough officials need to work together and have accurate information on how feral cats affect communities.

“We’re all on the same side here,” she said. “But scientifically, the only way to stop this is colony by colony. Rodents are actually more likely to spread infections than cats.”

Audience members also expressed their concerns about the effects of the ordinance on the community, as well as the cats themselves.

Amanda Coats of Youngwood, Westmoreland County, who works as a trap-neuter-return volunteer, said the White Oak ordinance “goes against what we stand for. Now that caretakers can be cited, we feel duped.”

Not everyone at the meeting spoke out against the ordinance. White Oak resident Chris Martin argued that without some kind of regulations, feral cats will get out of control.

“No one wants to see cats starve,” resident Jody Perozich of Lincoln Way said. “But I also don’t want to see cats going to the bathroom on my lawn. It creates a haven for rabies and distemper.”

In other business, the council adopted motions on interfund transfers, animal control, tax collection, and fees associated with the Green Light Go, 2021 Demolition and Heritage Hill Pool Pump projects. Council members Louis Bender, George Dillinger and Charles Davis were absent.

The next council workshop meeting will be held at 6:45 p.m. March 8. Members of the public are welcome, but social distancing rules are in place.

Sarah Turnbull is a freelance writer in Irwin. She can be reached at sarahturnbull323@gmail.com.

Originally published February 23, 2021.

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