What can you do when your neighborhood is overrun by cats? Not much - Titusville Herald: News

What can you do when your neighborhood is overrun by cats? Not much

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Posted: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 10:59 pm

For the most part, cats are considered friendly pets that can offer a strong companionship for their caretakers.

However, when cats are not properly cared for and an owner begins hoarding them, the lovable pets can become a nuisance to the entire neighborhood around their home.

When neighbors begin to sort out what can be done about the problematic pets, they are likely to find that little, if anything, can be done about it.

LeRoy Stearns, executive director of the Crawford County Humane Society, said cats are a very different issue than that of stray or mistreated dogs.

“Dogs are controlled through the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Dog Law,” he said. “With cats, there are no regulations, other than under some city ordinances.”

One issue the county’s Humane Society frequently encounters is residents who feed stray cats, which then immediately become their legal responsibility.

“Under cruelty [laws], taking the duty to care for a cat by feeding it means you take the duty of responsibility as caretaker,” he explained.

Once that tendency leads to the resident acquiring a large number of cats, some cases can lead to cruelty to animals charges.

“If someone is hoarding them and not cleaning up litter boxes and providing clean food, water, veterinary care and shelter, it can be classified as cruelty,” said Stearns. “There are quite a few hoarders in the commonwealth.”

Meanwhile, the Crawford County Humane Society does not currently have a cruelty officer, according to Stearns, but one is expected to be appointed within the next 30 days.

According to Beth Davidson, employee of the Titusville Police Department, the city’s law enforcement of cat-related issues is taken as “case by case.”

“Cats are a whole different matter,” she said. “They’re not considered domesticated animals.”

This is one of several loopholes that provide neighbors of cat hoarders little hope for legal intervention.

Because, according to a spokesperson with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, cats are also not considered wild game, and are therefore not governed by the commission — or anyone, for that matter.

“Cats kind of fall into a loophole there,” said the spokesperson. “They don’t fall under dog law. We have no jurisdiction, either. We refer them back to county dog law offices as the best resource.

“We, as an agency, don’t provide a solution. It’s up to local agencies.”

Yet, in Titusville, that is unlikely to help the issue.

“We can’t do anything about it,” said Titusville Police Chief Gary Thomas. “If you want to catch a cat — and, you can’t anyways — what do you do with it?”

Thomas, along with many charged with varying levels of animal law enforcement, said there is no legislation in Pennsylvania or the city of Titusville regarding cats.

“There are no laws governing cats,” Thomas said. “They aren’t licensed; they don’t need a leash.”

Thomas said that, eventually, there should be laws enacted to tackle the issue often affecting neighborhoods across the state.

“I don’t know what can be done. Someone, at some point, is going to have to legislate the issue.”

For now, Thomas said lawmakers are not even considering cat hoarding as a public nuisance worthy of regulation.

“It is what it is,” he said, “and it is a problem everywhere. I have no idea what the answer is. It’s fallen through the cracks. To the majority of people who write the laws and ordinances, it’s a non-issue.”

Instead of waiting for laws to be enacted, Thomas urged pet owners to have their animals spayed or neutered, to help prevent territorial urinations, or spraying, that seep into nearby houses, creating a direct nuisance and, sometimes, an allergy problem, as well as a way of controlling the pet population.

For residents calling the city police department about the smell and the piles of feces hidden throughout their yards, legal solutions are unlikely.

“We pretty much tell them there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said. “It’s not that we want to be the bad guy, but we really just can’t do anything there.

“We have neither the license nor desire to euthanize them.”

Titusville City Manager Larry Manross reiterated Thomas’ assessment of city ordinances, explaining that the police can’t do much about complaints of nuisance cats because there are no city ordinances granting such legal authority.

“With stray dogs, residents can call the police department and the county will come pick them up. With cats, there is nothing at all on the books.

“Dogs have to have a license, so we can monitor them,” Manross explained. “It’s never been addressed, with cats. There’s been no mention of cats, whatsoever.”

Manross said those complaints are most likely only to be solved as a landlord-tenant issue, if the problem emanates from a rental property.

However, there are a couple scenarios in which legal action may be taken.

If a house where animals are hoarded may be unfit for children, Children and Youth Services (CYS) may be summoned.

“If you think the home conditions are deplorable and children are involved, you can call CYS,” said Thomas.

Another scenario for potential legal action revolves around potentially negative health conditions created by the cats.

Stearns said that cat hoarders — people who harbor a large number of cats without providing them proper care — can be investigated by the Humane Society as a potential case of animal cruelty.

“There are no regulations that cats need to be kept inside a house,” he said. “But, if somebody has 20 or 30 cats, we can investigate that as cruelty.

“There are also no regulations about how many litter boxes are needed. The cruelty law is about providing the animals clean, sanitary conditions.”

If a cat-hoarding home does create an unhealthy environment for neighbors, a solution may come at the cost of those cats’ lives. For this scenario, there must be sufficient evidence that a cat-hoarding neighbor has created a health issue for the surrounding neighborhood or the home of the cats. If it is established that a houseful of cats is creating negative health impacts on the neighboring homes, Manross said the Humane Society will be summoned by the city to resolve the situation — spelling the likely end of the lives of those cats.

“If it becomes a health issue, we can address it,” said Manross. “But, there’s nothing saying you can’t have 10 cats, or any number. Besides, without licensing, how can you prove how many cats someone has?”

According to the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA), there are common traits to help identify and report animal hoarding.

While the PSPCA has investigated cases involving both men and women of all ages and socio-economic levels, animals hoarders frequently are older females, living alone; have limited or no social interactions; live in conditions without telephone, public utilities or plumbing; and hoard inanimate objects, as well.

Signs that someone is hoarding animals include a number of animals that appear sickly, unkempt or malnourished; strong odors coming from a house, covered windows and overgrown vegetation; parasite and rodent infestations that begin to affect neighboring properties; refusal of owner to allow anyone inside the living quarters; and denies his or her inability to provide care, and the impact of that failure on the animals, their home and other people who live on the property.

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Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • Noahs Bark posted at 9:23 am on Fri, Jun 21, 2019.

    Noahs Bark Posts: 115

    “Meanwhile, the Crawford County Humane Society does not currently have a cruelty officer, according to Stearns, but one is expected to be appointed within the next 30 days.” My friends, it looks like we have open game on cats for the next 30 days. I find a 12 gauge works best for critters in the wide open.


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