Cat Feeding Bans Enforced in New Jersey

A newly-enforced ban cites feral cat feeders with a $2,000 fine and possible jail time.

By Steve Dale, CABC | Posted: September 4, 2012, 2 p.m. EST

Steve Dale
Author Steve Dale

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Cat with Food
Even if you argue successfully that feral cats are an exception and considered wildlife, how do you tease out which individual cats found outdoors in a community like Phillipsburg are owned indoor/outdoor cats, lost cats who got out that do not fall under this law, or truly feral cats who may fall under the law?
From erroneous quasi-scientific reports blasting people who care for community cats to the Loews hotel fiasco in Florida, where a successful TNR program was trashed overnight, 2011 has been a tough year for cats who live outdoors.

Cat Feeding Ban Citations
Phillipsburg, N.J., is a beautiful place, set along the Delaware River. The city's website maintains it's the “best of all worlds,” an urban setting with a rural backdrop near the Pocono Mountains. In this idyllic setting, police there have begun issuing citations for feeding wild animals. Guilty persons face a $2,000 fine and, potentially, 90 days in jail.

Listed among those wild animals are cats.The good news is that residents who already have a contract with the town to feed community cats and participate in TNR are excluded, or at least they are supposed to be.

The larger issue is whether or not feral cats are really wild animals.

Are Feral Cats The Same as Wild Animals?
Just because a cat isn't owned doesn't change its species. Feral or not, domestic cats are domestic cats — not mountain lions, not wild cats. Clearly, this law (and similar laws elsewhere) means to target people who feed cats.

If the local police catch me feeding a cat in Phillipsburg, are they supposed to conduct some sort of temperament test on the cat I'm feeding to determine whether it's wild?
Of course, we wouldn't have this problem in the first place if people kept their cats indoors. That way, trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs would get an even better shot at success.

By all accounts, Phillipsburg has successful TNR programs. The Mayor has even been quoted saying that the cats help control rodents. Increasingly, city mayors have become cats' best friends; unlike city abatement programs, which cost money for personnel and rat poison, the cats work for free.

Cat Complaints
I suspect this new law is complaint-driven because cats are so common in Phillipsburg they're considered a nuisance. Let's say Philipsburg residents complain about the cats. A no-feeding policy is often suggested, which hampers those who care for colonies. What might happen next, based on what's occurred in other cities, orders could come to trap and kill cats found outdoors.

This response has been tried for hundreds of years. One reason it doesn't work is that even the best cat hunters can't catch all cats in a colony. When cats are removed, reproduction increases among remaining cats to help fill the void.

Phillipsburg law specifies these captured cats must be held at animal control for seven days before euthanizing. A pawful may be deemed friendly and adopted or the owners may turn up to redeem a few. Meanwhile, space for more adoptable cats isn't available, the facility can become overcrowded, and disease transmission may be rampant. Not to mention that going this route is costly to taxpayers.

When this all gets into newspapers and the blogosphere, the same public who complained about the cats in the first place will likely create an uproar and angrily ask “Why are we killing cats?” Now, that is a good question.
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Cat Feeding Bans Enforced in New Jersey

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Reader Comments

Milly    Harrisburg, PA

4/7/2014 10:09:58 PM

Forcing cat owners to keep their cat "in prison" (i.e., trapped indoors) leads to overweight, under-exercised, sick frustrated cats who need fresh air and freedom as much as any other animal of person. And penalizing compassionate people who can't stand to watch abandoned cats suffer and die slowly is just inhumane. WE won't do it. Humans get cute little kittens, and get tired of them, and drive them to a faraway location to be abandoned. What is next, imprisoning people for feeding the homeless? This just makes me sick. Many people, like myself, take care of the abandoned little ones who can't take care of themselves, getting them treated for diseases, and we neuter them too. Don't ask us to become monsters, just because human monsters have abandoned them. It just won't happen. You will not change compassionate people. Better you should imprison abusive pet owners.

Rose    Jamesburg, NJ

6/24/2013 9:19:13 AM

Its not the way the control the population. its cruel and inhumane. I was threatened with a fine and having my rent raised. Now I see the cat I was who still follows me and it breaks my heart. Thee are better ways to deal with cats, being a cat owner myself I do not like to see them suffer.

Kristen    International

5/30/2013 8:12:18 PM

What! Cats be held in animal shelters 7 days before euthanizing!!! Wow! That person who thought of that should have a terrible future!

Nicole    Aberdeen, NJ

1/22/2013 11:11:47 AM

a 2000 fine for feeding a stray/feral cat colony while you are performing TNR operations and spending your own money to do this (as NJ has nothing in place to support these wonderfule programs).... a man lights a cat on fire new years eve leaving him in a cage, lighting on fire and opens the cage to enjoy watching him run away while lit up like a torch..,,. in NJ and he faces up to $1000 fine.. what on earth is this world coming too.. DISGUSTING!! SHAME on these rediculous laws.. work on animal abusers

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