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Falls City Council fails to approve policy on nuisance cats

NIAGARA FALLS – After months of debate, the City Council has failed to move forward on a policy to deal with the problem of nuisance cats.

In a 4-to-1 vote, the City Council opted Monday not to vote on amendments to the animal, fowl and dog law that would have specifically addressed cats by sanctioning the practice of trap, neuter, vaccinate and release, known as TNVR.

The item had been tabled in April and failed to come back to the floor for a vote.

Council member Kristen Grandinetti, who cast the lone vote in favor of the policy, took on the issue in April, proposing the Council legalize TNVR in the city. But the self-professed owner of several rescue cats found herself in a battle, which turned heated when animal activists spoke out against restrictions on feeding stray cats, rules on nuisance cats, fines and seizures that were also part of the proposal. She said no licensing of cats or threats of jail time were ever part of the law, despite some claims by those in opposition.

“They were quite comfortable threatening my life, without finding out more (about the ordinance,)” Grandinetti said.

Grandinetti and Corporation Counsel Craig J. Johnson worked with Amy Lewis, director of the Niagara County SPCA, to come up with a new proposal, which does not restrict feeding, but still has rules regarding nuisance cats.

Before the vote, Grandinetti said she was happy with the way the ordinance had come out.

“I have two friends who do TNVR in the area and they are excited about it,” said Grandinetti. She said they would like to get something going like Lewiston’s Orange Cat program, which raised money to trap and neuter cats in the area, but said stray cats are a much bigger problem in Niagara Falls than in Lewiston.

Earlier this month Councilman Kenneth Tompkins announced he was working with the county SPCA to bring an Orange Cat Campaign to Niagara Falls and said he was able to secure $2,500 from private donors. The program, endorsed by the City Council on June 13, will approach city businesses to sell orange paper cats for $1

It was Tompkins, not Grandinetti, who read a letter into the record Monday from Lewis prior to the vote.

Lewis wrote that she was in full support of a TNVR ordinance, but was in opposition to defining caretakers as owners.

“Community cat caretakers are not owners. They take care of TNVR and cats that were allowed to stray and breed by other city residents,” Lewis said. She said that she would like to see a TNVR ordinance that stood on its own.

She agreed in the letter that owners should keep their cat or dos from being a nuisance, but wrote: “In my opinion this is separate from TNVR and should not affect community cats or their caretakers.”

Several speakers at Monday’s meeting also asked for a similar ruling.

Grandinetti said prior to the vote that, in proposing nuisance laws, she had been responding to concerns from residents about problems with community cats, as well as the need for a TNVR program. She said she would not pursue the issue further if it failed to be approved on Monday.