Modesto's new cat ordinanceputs in writing what mostpeople know you shouldn'tdump animals in parks or anywhere else where they'll struggle to survive. Such a practice has always been inhumane; now it will be illegal.
But the law won't do much to ease neighborhood tension over roaming cats because it doesn't get at the root of the problem: There are simply too many stray and wandering cats in Modesto and many other communities.
Animal services Capt. Michael Harris drafted a reasonable ordinance. It states that people who trap an animal on their property must, within 24 hours, release the animal or return it to its owner, if known; or report the contained animal to animal control officials or take the animal to the shelter, providing information that could help identify the owner. Failure to do at least one of these things is a misdemeanor for which the penalty is a fine.
The City Council unanimously OK'd the new ordinance. It will go into effect a month after a second council approval.
The law grew out of an uproar over incidents in which two men trapped cats in their yards and dumped them at the park. Presumably, the men thought releasing them in the park was more humane than taking them to the animal shelter, where most cats end up being euthanized. Wrong choice.
Then some cat lovers went over the top with their protestations that District Attorney Birgit Fladager should have prosecuted these cat dumpers. Fladager a cat lover, by the way should only pursue cases when there has been a clear law violation. Her office has more important things to deal with.
Most of the registered caretakers for feral cat colonies do the right thing: As well as feeding the cats, they also trap them and take them to be spayed or neutered. After release, these cats may be a nuisance but at least they are not multiplying.
People who just feed unclaimed cats think they're being compassionate, but are contributing to the problem. Well-fed cats reproduce in greater numbers.
This a quality of life issue, not a crime to which law enforcement should devote great time. It can be addressed by trap- neuter-release and by responsible pet owners keeping their animals at home and cleaning up after them.