SEASIDE HEIGHTS — The borough council Wednesday night unanimously passed its controversial feral car ordinance — which some animal advocates fear will lead to cats' deaths — after an hour's worth of debate.

The borough recently decided to end a local trap-neuter-release program run by the Seaside Heights Animal Welfare Organization, which allowed feral cats to live outside after they’ve been spayed or neutered.

The new ordinance allows TNR run by the borough's animal control officer, but excludes feral cat colonies from being established in the oceanfront or beachfront areas, and require neighbors’ permission. Colonies would have to be registered and be limited to 10 cats each.

Feral cats found in the areas that don’t allow colonies would be taken by animal control officers to a shelter, where they might eventually be euthanized.

“If you take these cats to a shelter, they’ll be there for a week and then they will be destroyed. It’s basically a death sentence for these cats," Forked River resident Barry Benda told the council, according to Lavallette-Seaside and Ortley Beach Shorebeat. Advocates have said the ordinance makes TNR a practical impossibility and euthanasia much more likely.

Many residents spoke in favor of the ordinance, including Patti Koch, who said the previous trap-neuter-release program program wasn't working.

“Live and let live is fine up until the point where it does not work anymore – and it is not working. We want the cat problem resolved," Shorebeat quoted her as telling the meeting.

The group Alley Cat Allies, which had urged the council to postpone its vote on the ordinance, praised administrator Christopher Vaz for adding language to the ordinance that protects some existing cat colonies. Under an amendment to the ordinance, permission from neighbors would not be required for already-existing cat colonies — but it still would bar those from the beach, boardwalk and Boulevard business district areas.

"But the much loved and famous boardwalk cats wouldn’t be included. The ordinance still needs a lot of work—and Seaside Heights’ cats aren’t out of the woods yet," the group wrote on its Facebook page.

Seaside Heights Animal Welfare, which had been maintaining the colonies before being removed by the council, criticized the vote.

On its Facebook page, the group said, "Despite numerous offers from the EXPERTS, as far as offering to help, educate, TNR, amending the ordinance to help EVERYONE so the ordinance can be successful, the counsel and mayor, who think they are playing GOD, refused to table or postpone the vote and work with the EXPERTS. That says ONE THING. EGOS."

In a letter to last month, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says the group supports the borough’s recent decision to end its trap-neuter-release program.

PETA maintains that TNR itself is cruel because domestic cats are not equipped to live outdoors and they can cause considerable ecological damage by killing birds and other mammals.

But TNR programs are endorsed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and by the Humane Society.

 

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