MODESTO — Modesto is putting claws into its effort to stop people from trapping neighborhood cats and then dumping them at parks and other sites far from their homes.
The City Council adopted an ordinance Tuesday night on a 7-0 vote that makes it a misdemeanor to trap and dump stray animals. While the ordinance covers all strays, officials said the problem has been with residents who trap and dump cats.
The ordinance requires someone who has trapped or contained a stray animal to do one of the following within 24 hours:
Release the animal where it was contained or return it to the owner, if the owner is known.
Report to animal control that the animal has been trapped.
Take the animal to the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency facility on Cornucopia Way.
The ordinance does not apply to people or organizations registered with the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency as feral cat caretakers.
About a dozen audience members spoke before the council vote. The comments were divided between cat lovers and those who consider felines to be a nuisance.
Some said the ordinance does not go far enough, and that the city should require residents to notify neighbors when they set traps. They also wanted people to trap cats humanely by immediately covering the traps to calm the cats.
Otherwise, they said, cats can severely injure themselves as they try to escape from the cages.
Those who find cats to be a nuisance because they defecate on their property and cause other harm said the city needs to promote responsible cat ownership.
Police Capt. Michael Harris, who met with both sides as he developed the ordinance, acknowledged that neither side got what it wanted.
"That probably means it (the ordinance) is right down the middle," Harris told the council. "We tried to come up with a reasonable solution."
One feral cat caregiver said too many people in Stanislaus County abandon their pets.
"I find people are dumping animals all the time," said Ceres resident Karen Mosser, who spoke in favor of the ordinance and has been trapping, neutering and returning feral cats for 13 years. "Animal dumping is animal cruelty."
The ordinance was crafted after the district attorney's office declined last year to prosecute two Modesto men accused of trapping and then dumping neighborhood cats at remote locations. Animal advocates had urged authorities to prosecute the men.
State law makes it a misdemeanor to abandon an animal, but city officials have said local prosecutors declined to file charges under that law because they concluded it applied to owners who abandon their pets.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2316.