By Neil Schulman
Long Branch — The city says they want to work to eliminate complaints caused by cats without upsetting cat lovers. This is proving to be a difficult balancing act.
At the Dec. 13 City Council Workshop, Health Department Director Sidney Johnson presented a proposed ordinance to address the situation.
This new proposed ordinance would limit people to nine cats, but that would only be enforced if there were complaints brought against them. And that limit also wouldn’t take effect for four years.
You would be considered the owner of a cat if you were the one who was feeding it, so it would also include feral cats living in yards or elsewhere.
At the moment, he said, Long Branch has no legal recourse when neighbors complain about damage to their property caused by a colony of cats being fed by locals.
“We could talk with people, try to educate them, but we couldn’t really resolve it,” Johnson said.
The purpose of this ordinance wouldn’t be to address feral populations, or order a spay and neuter program, he said. It’s to let animal control address complaints it receives. People whose cats caused the complaints could receive a fine.
“People had this idea we would be trapping cats and exterminating them,” Johnson said, emphasizing that won’t be the case. “We’re going to have a velvet glove kind of approach. We’re not going to be heavy handed.”
And it would be complaints that set it off. If someone has 10 or more indoor cats, since those are unlikely to upset neighbors, animal control wouldn’t be taking action against them.
“As long as they keep their animals where they’re not creating a nuisance, we say live and let live.”
Numerous people showed up at the workshop, and afterwards met with health department officials to discuss it.
At the regular meeting, city resident Andrea Rosa said that there were better options out there than what was proposed, including a system that allows for colony caretakers.
These are people who are trained to look after colonies of feral cats, and ensure they receive medical attention if necessary. The Monmouth County SPCA held a seminar earlier this month with officials from towns, including Sea Bright, that have successfully adopted cat colony programs.
“It will not just address nuisances, but also address responsible cat management,” Rosa said.
Mayor Adam Schneider said the city was open to any option.
“This is very much in flux. We think we have to do something,” he said. However, Long Branch isn’t sure what the best option is.
He said he was willing to learn more about this or any other option that would help address concerns.
“A working compromise is all we’re looking for,” Schneider said.