Centerville tweaks stray cat feeding law as part of SICSA partnership

CENTERVILLE — The city is increasing efforts to control stray cats by tweaking a program local animal adoption advocates call a model for other communities.

Starting Jan. 20, a change designed to better define the feeding permitted under Centerville’s Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program will take effect.

The city will allow “knowingly” leaving unattended food — which has been prohibited — as part of its outdoor animal feeding ordinance in a move designed to allow a “limited” supply for feral felines.

The move approved by Centerville City Council last month is part of “the most effective way to manage stray cats,” said Nora Vondrell, president and CEO of the SICSA Pet Adoption and Wellness Center.

SICSA has partnered with Centerville on the TNR program since 2019, shortly after a decision by the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center to stop taking in cats.

Centerville does not have an animal control officer and largely depends on volunteers to help control the number of stray cats, officials said.

The change was necessary because “we wanted to make sure that behavior was in line with the rules we have as a city,” said Centerville spokeswoman Kate Bostdorff.

“I know that they have not pursued charges against anyone since we’ve started the TNR program,” she added. “But people are allowed to knowingly feed as long as it’s part of the city sponsored partnership with SICSA.”

The city still bans “recklessly” leaving unattended food outdoors and will allow “controlled feeding that would be about 30 minutes per day,” Bostdorff said.

With unmanaged feeding, “you’re not only going to attract more cats, including cats that haven’t been neutered, but you’re also going to attract other animals — raccoons, foxes, etc., which isn’t something you necessarily want in your suburban communities any more than you have to,” Vondrell said.

Centerville’s TNR program “is a realistic model that other communities can take and use,” Vondrell said.

Since the program started, the city has processed 274 cats and spent about $12,300 for surgeries costing $45 each, Centerville records show.

A majority of the trapping has occurred in large apartment complexes and “we need to open up that conversation with some of” them, said Centerville City Councilman Mark Engert.

The city has talked with some apartment complex officials with varied success, Bostdorff said.

Centerville Mayor Brooks Compton said strays “can be a problem in the community and I think we’ve been very fortunate that we’ve had community cat leaders who are willing to step up and move forward on the program…but it’s no time to let up.”

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