Is Winter Park properly taking care of its cat crisis?
Winter Park City Commissioners unanimously voted to institute a fine on Monday for anyone caught feeding feral cats in Mead Garden or abandoning pets in city parks – a response to the out-of-control cat population in the garden.
Anyone caught feeding the felines or abandoning a pet in a city park will face a $50 fine on the first offense, a $100 fine on the second offense and a mandatory court appearance for additional violations.
But Deltona Commissioner Heidi Herzberg spoke before the city and said that fining residents isn’t the answer, because residents who feed cats will always find a way to do it.
“You’re always going to have people that want to take care of the animals; you’re going to have that part of your community that’s going to want to feed,” Herzberg said. “You have people who will feed and not fix. That was the problem with the city of Deltona.”
One feral cat can breed three times a year, leading to rapidly growing cat populations – like the one in Deltona, Herzberg said.
“We had a feeding ban the entire 20 years we were a city and it didn’t work,” she said. “Every single year you look at the population of feral cats and it went up every single year. The peak year was 2012, we impounded about 1,900 cats.”
Herzberg said the answer is implementing a program that combines trapping, fixing and releasing with reaching out to neighborhood feeders.
“What we’re trying to do is work with the community,” Herzberg said. “We had meetings and addressed the feeders. The first things we did was address proper practices for feeders, because part of the problem is that people will feed, they leave a mess, they don’t have controlled feeding and they don’t fix the cats – then you have a problem.”
Through that program, the city managed to reduce its intake of cats by the hundreds, she said, adding that that she would be willing to host a cat feeding workshop in Winter Park to help solve the problem.
City Commissioners thanked Herzberg for her insight, but agreed that the fines against feeding are an appropriate first step, and that staff will come back with an update on the cat population after several months.