Vandalia residents who feed stray or wild animals will face prosecution after the city last week approved an ordinance banning the practice.
The Vandalia City Council passed the measure on an emergency basis, making it take effect immediately.
The ordinance was an attempt to combat an ongoing, growing problem with feral cats as well as other animals, such as raccoons and skunks, supporters said.
One member of the community, Cindy Watson, questioned the ban.
“I understand the intent, but it basically says my bird seed on the ground could be in contempt of the feeding ban.”
»RELATED: Proposed feeding ban met with opposition
The ordinance makes an exception for the outdoor feeding of birds, so long as the bird feeders are not attracting at large or wild animals.
Enforcement of the law for a first violation of the ordinance is a minor misdemeanor, and according to Vandalia Prosecutor David Caldwell, the minor misdemeanor will be punishable by a fine up to $100.
If an individual’s second violation of the ordinance comes within a 12-month period, it will be considered a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $250 and as many as 30 days in jail.
Tasha Gibbs also brought her concerns to the meeting. “This ordinance turns good-hearted people into criminals…Feeding bans have never been proven to work, but programs like trap, neuter, return (TNR) have,” Gibbs said.
Council members reassured the community that the ban was not to target the responsible citizens, but the irresponsible ones. “(The ordinance) is for people who are laying out tons of food that is drawing the varmints,” said Councilman Dave Gerhard.
Other members of the community voiced their support for the ban, including father and son Don and Nathan Hutchinson.
“I have never seen the animals so brazen,” said Don Hutchinson, who has lived in the Vandalia community since 1957.
Son Nathan Hutchinson backed up his father’s concerns with his own.
“I’ve been waiting for something like this to come along. I understand [neighbors] intent is to keep from having homeless cats, but the problem over the years is, it has created more and more cats.”
Mayor Arlene Setzer said that the council investigated other alternatives.
“(Council) has investigated trap, neuter, return, but for situation we have right now, we needed to do something more immediate,” Setzer said.
“This ordinance is complaint-driven, meaning that the city will rely on those most impacted by reckless feeding to initiate an investigation,” said Manager Crusey.
Vandalia residents who wish to file a complaint should call the Department of Engineering Services, 937-898-3750.
The next Vandalia Council meeting is April 17 at the municipal building, 333 James E. Bohanan Drive, at 7 p.m.
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