Thursday, April 10, 2014
The Triumph of Bureaucracy
I hate people. I hate local government. I like dogs and cats. These all crashed together recently, and the little guy came out the loser.
The “little guy” in this case is Stray Kitty. If you check out the comments on some of these blogs you’ve seen my sporadic chronicles of Stray Kitty’s adventures. Once upon a time his name was Domino and he lived with the Deadbeats, the family in the mobile home next door to me. Then the Deadbeats stopped paying their bills and got evicted. So did Stray Kitty. I thought he’d just snuck through an open door and got out. Not the case, as we the neighbors discovered when we caught him and gave him back to his family. Within two days he was back on the street—better off, if you ask me.
For a while a nice retired couple down the street fed him. Then they moved. The wife asked me if I’d take over. Sure, why not? I can’t afford vet bills, but cat food is cheap. It wasn’t like he’d be moving into the house. It took a year before he’d come near me, and he still won’t let me touch him. I have no illusions; he’s coming for the food dish, not me. Unless I have food in my hand, forget it. This cat knows what he wants, and it isn’t human companionship or affection. I’m beginning to understand why the Deadbeats cut him loose.
In addition to SK, another cat started turning up at the food dish, a huge gray tabby from across the street. I’d seen him around, but he didn’t start showing up regularly until he realized there were free meals to be had on my porch. There are other strays in the neighborhood, but SK and Tabbs are the featured players in this story.
So that’s how it went for roughly a year. A couple other neighbors and I set out food, and the cats would show up and eat it. I started finding Stray Kitty at my door in the morning, waiting for his breakfast. In this manner we got the neighborhood cats through this year’s brutal winter. Stray Kitty even put on weight. And got picky: he’d bypass the dry food in the bowl and wait for me to ladle out the good, moist stuff from the can. The gray tabby never reached this point; he’d eat whatever was there. I think he’s been on his own longer, maybe even his whole life.
And then last week I got a letter from the Borough: “It’s been brought to our attention you’re feeding feral cats … ”
Here’s the deal: last October the Borough passed an ordinance forbidding the feeding of stray or feral cats. If you want to continue, you have to apply for a permit to become a Feral Cat Provider. That entails catching the cat, getting it fixed and vaccinated, and clipping off the tip of an ear for easy ID. Feeding cats without a permit carries a fine of $100-$1000, and jail time of at least a month if you don’t pay up.
As noted, I can’t afford vet bills. I can’t even afford Obamacare. Cost isn’t even the problem. The problem would be catching the elusive little prick. If I could catch him, I would have brought him into the house this winter and all this would be a non-issue. There's no getting near Tabby at all. He defines "feral." He runs if I open the door, food or no food. Scratch that plan.
Plus there’s the question of permission. If the cats you’re feeding aren’t on your property, you have to get the landowner’s permission. I live in a mobile home park. Own the house, not the land it sits on. If the park owner says no, even after all the vet treatments, Kitty and I are out of luck.
So I had to opt for the easy and cheaper solution: stop feeding the cats.
At least winter’s over. We’ve got plenty of wildlife around. I know there are mice because they’ve gotten into my house once or twice. There’s a vacant lot across the street, and we’re within a quarter mile of a creek, so he’d not going to starve or go thirsty. As far as I know, none of my other cat-feeding neighbors received notifications. I noticed one neighbor took her plates off the porch, or else just moved them out of sight.
I understand the Borough’s reasoning. Feral cats get into garbage, kill birds, and carry diseases. Uh-huh. All that and more can be said about skunks. We’re in mobile homes—no enclosed foundations. We’re Skunk Central out here. Two years ago a mama skunk raised a family of four little disease-taxis under my house. Why doesn’t the Borough—or the park owner, for that matter—do something about that? This happened long before I started feeding cats, so you can’t blame the local skunk population on me.
I’d still like to know who turned me in. To my knowledge, I’m the only one who got a letter. It might have been the management group that oversees the park. If so, you’d think they would have talked to me directly and not gone to the Borough about it. If it was a neighbor, I hope they get run down in the street by a Mercury Cougar. That would be karma at its best.
In the meantime, I’m still slipping food to Stray Kitty if he comes up onto the porch. I just don’t leave the bowls out any more. I’m looking into some of the local non-kill animal rescue groups to see what other options I can go for. If you’re feeding strays yourself, better check with your local government first before you get in trouble. Doing something humane for an animal might be against the law. Bureaucracy triumphs once again.
Suppose I put a trap out and got a skunk? Not only would it be smelly, capturing wild animals without a permit is also against the law. You just can’t win…