Written by Linda Portney Goldstein Friday, 09 September 2011 00:00
Many people turned out for the August 25 Manorhaven Village Trustees meeting. Although the proposed amendment to the village code entitled Dogs and Other Animals was not on the agenda, opponents of the amendment wanted to make their voices heard during the public comment portion of the meeting.
The proposed amendment involves a ban on the feeding of feral cats. During the July 27 public hearing on the amendment, concerns were expressed by the trustees about what would happen to the cats if the good samaritans stopped feeding them. After long discussion, the trustees did not see an alternative to the ban because the TNR, Trap, Neuter and Release Program, does not seem to be impacting the feral cat population. In fact, the number of cats roaming the streets of Manorhaven, particularly in Manhasset Isle, seems to be increasing.
Among the people waiting to speak was Karen Hancock, vice president of HUG, Humane Urban Group. Hancock referred to herself as a “serial feeder,” a term which had been used during the July 27 meeting to describe people who might be repeatedly fined if the amendment to the code went into effect. Ms. Hancock also wanted to be clear on the difference between a feral cat, one that is not accustomed to human contact and a wild cat, which implies that the cat can take care of itself. Ms. Hancock and the others who spoke at the meeting said that the village and the Town of North Hempstead had not given enough publicity to the TNR program.
TNR refers to the Trap, Neuter and Release Program jointly sponsored by the village and the Town of North Hempstead. The intent of the program is to control the feral cat population in a humane way by limiting reproduction. Unfortunately for Manorhaven residents, this process is slow and will not offer an immediate fix to the problem.
Andrew DeMartin, who has been commissioner of Public Safety for the Town of North Hempstead since January, was in attendance at the meeting. He said that two-thirds of his time is spent on the feral cat problem which exists throughout North Hempstead. Although Manorhaven may think its problem is particularly bad, it is actually typical of many villages in the town. He said town officials are committed to partnering with local villages to make the TNR program a success. They are offering a three-pronged approach, he explained. A resident can borrow a trap from the town and trap the cat himself. There are also a limited number of volunteer trappers or the town can arrange to send a trapper. The last is a very expensive option and DeMartins asked that it be used only as a last resort. He said a disproportionate amount of his budget is already going towards the feral cat program, negatively impacting the funds available for other emergency and public safety programs. The town is currently neutering about 40 cats per week.
Mayor Michael Meehan invited all concerned attendees at the meeting to speak on the issue giving priority to Manorhaven residents. There were no Manorhaven residents present wanting to speak about the issue. Mayor Meehan said he was happy to have everyone turn out to discuss the problem and is looking forward to a dialogue. “We are not interested in starving cats. But our first responsibility is to the residents of the Village of Manorhaven”.
Meehan asked interested residents to sign up to meet with him and the other trustees so that “we can move forward as a board to solve the problem.”