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Becky L. Morrow writes:
I am not an attorney — I am a veterinarian, scientist and former assistant professor of biology.
Based on my experience with grading thousands of papers from undergraduate and graduate students, White Oak Council President Charles Davis and anyone else authoring the borough’s feral cat ordinance definitely deserve a failing grade.
While my students write scientific papers not legislation, I think it is reasonable to expect both to be logical and consistent. Unfortunately, that is not the case with this document.
The biggest issue is that the ordinance defines “cat” as “felis libyca domestica,” which is problematic for several reasons. Improper spelling and abysmal attempt at scientific nomenclature aside, there is no domestic subspecies of Felis lybica, the African wildcat, nor do we have any African wildcats in the White Oak region or any other region on this continent.
Based on the White Oak Council’s definition of “cat,” none of what is to follow in the document applies to the community cats (feral, stray, and owned outdoor) or resident’s cats who are all of the species Felis catus.
Even though African wildcats seem to be safe from White Oak Borough, I will still point out some of the many illogical and inconsistent passages in the rest of the ordinance.
Let’s start with the first definition. An “Animal Owner” is defined as “any person owning, keeping, feeding, harboring, or having custody of any animal other than cats and dogs, or any person who allows any such other animals to remain on or around his or her property.”
So, based on this, dogs and cats are not animals. I’m not sure what grade school science course the authors of this document consistently slept through, but may I point out that cats and dogs are indeed animals?
Also, any residents of White Oak, including Councilman George Pambacas (who can be seen in a video of the Feb. 22 council meeting yelling at me) who have deer, mice, voles, house sparrows, rats, raccoons, opossum and any other animal “on or around” their property without constantly shooing them away apparently owns those animals.
Looks like the Pennsylvania Game Commission is going to have their hands full, since that is, of course, illegal.
Per their definition, if your friends come by your White Oak residence with their dog, you are now the owner since it is “on or around” your property.
I guess borough council did not bother to do a quick internet search of the state statutes, as their definitions run counter to 7 Pa. Code § 16.1 definitions.
Let’s assume for a moment that the borough actually defined “Cat” correctly. According to the definition of “Cat Owner,” Councilman George Pambacas, who bemoaned the “parade of cats” coming through his yard, actually owns them.
That, of course, is based on my assumption that he is not out there 24/7 telling the cats that they should leave his property and getting them to comply.
They also speak of “trespassing” cats, though I am not sure how a cat can break the law and be charged with trespassing (although as I mentioned, I am not a lawyer).
I could go on to further talk about the redundancy of “inoculations with a vaccine,” the wrong governmental agency listed as responsible for upholding what we in the industry call “Dog Law” (hint — it is not the state Department of Environmental Protection), or the provision in the ordinance that any White Oak resident’s cat, should he or she step a paw outside, is required to have the tip of the left ear chopped off, but I think that I have made my point.
Those responsible for writing this ordinance and signing it into law should be embarrassed. I am embarrassed for them.
I really feel for you residents of White Oak. Your council, especially Councilman George Pambacas, attacked those that were willing to help you and drove them off. I guess you better attend to your full-time job of driving off all animals, dogs and cats from your property, so you don’t get fined.
—Dr. Becky Morrow, Arnold, Pa.
The writer is founder of Frankie's Friends Cat Rescue, a former assistant professor of biological sciences at Duquesne University, and a licensed veterinarian.
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Originally published March 19, 2021.