Council, health department to discuss cat licensing

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:49

    BYRAM-The township of Byram is moving closer to forcing residents to license their cats. Town council members Donna Griff and Louis Esposito strongly recommend the municipality moves to license cats as a mechanism to force residents to take responsibility both for the animal and the damage they cause when allowed to roam free outdoors. "Dogs are licensed," said Esposito. "What is the downside of cat licensing? Why should cats get a free pass?" For local health officials however, the plan presents enforcement issues. "The reason I never moved to introduce cat licensing," said Board of Health Chairwoman Ruth Rhodes, "is that the township can't handle it. The staff has enough to do and now you are going to license cats?" The council has requested that a combined township council-board of health workshop be held at 7 p.m. June 20 to further discuss the licensing effort. Community input will be solicited during the regular council session which will follow the workshop. In a related issue, during Monday's council meeting, the governing body approved a three-prong effort to reduce the feral cat population. The plan calls for the municipality to continue its efforts to trap the feral cats. Cats that remain unclaimed for seven days will be euthanized. Cats are claimed or adopted the animals would be required to be marked in some way for identification, either by inserting a micro chip in the ear which contains information regarding the animal or by notching the ear. In addition, in order to boost the efficiency of traps installed throughout the area, Byram will begin enforcing a state law that prohibits the feeding of wild animals, including cats. Officials believe that residents feeding the animals have hampered efforts to catch the feral cats. "This is the most serious problem," said Councilman Earl Riley. "If the food source is readily available, we will encourage the growth of the (cat) colony." Official did not make public how the ordinance prohibiting feeding the cats will be enforced. The council will re-evaluate the success of the program in six months to see what additional measures need to be taken. The ultimate goal, said Township Manager Greg Poff, is not to completely eliminate the feral cat population, but instead, to reduce the size and keep it manageable. According to Poff a reasonably sized colony is helpful to an area by helping to reduce the population of other unwanted animals. Once the colony has been reduced, the town plans to then consider the implementation of the trap-neuter-release program, the program supported by many animal activists, as an ongoing measure to manage the population.