Battle over Bellaire's feral cats may not be over
Bombarded with angry e-mails and form letters from as far away as Switzerland, Bellaire City Council nonetheless voted this week to ban the feeding of cats on public property and require the owners' permission on private property.But the issue may not end there.
D'Lane Viator, a feral-cat advocate who's been at the center of the debate, called Councilman Corbett Parker a liar and pledged she will campaign against him and others who supported the ordinance.
"Whatever," said Parker, who brought the issue to City Council in October based on complaints from business owners that a feral cat colony on Spruce Street had become a nuisance.
About two dozen people, mostly from Houston, have fought the feeding ban that passed Monday on a 5-2 vote, arguing that a strategy of trapping, neutering and then releasing cats, known as TNR, is the only proven method to manage feral cat colonies.
But Mayor Cindy Siegel said the council had heard other views from Bellaire residents, including a petition signed by 55 property owners on Spruce Street who support the restrictions.
"This is not an easy issue. We are trying to find a balance and compromise," the mayor said. "This was a case of not being respectful of other people's property."
Before the ordinance, Bellaire police had few tools to help resolve confrontations that had occurred between the business owners on Spruce Street and cat-feeders. While the new rules prohibit people from setting out food on city property and require an owner's permission to feed on private property, they will allow TNR proponents to use food to trap and remove feral cats.
Viator, who took responsibility for caring for the Spruce Street colony and two others in Bellaire, could have avoided the new restrictions entirely if she had agreed to stop feeding only the cats on Spruce Street, Siegel and Councilwoman Mandy Nathan pointed out.
Nathan said she was infuriated by some of the e-mails she's received that misstated the issue in Bellaire. Still, she tried to postpone action on the ordinance for six months more to give animal control proponents time to handle the colonies. Viator said she's removed 19 cats already and has three to go.
Both Nathan and Andrew Friedberg agree the city needs more than feeding restrictions to address the feral cat issue, as scores of animal control advocates have suggested.
"Just because 55 people want a solution doesn't merit adoption of a solution that others have thrown out because it doesn't work," Friedberg said.
But Parker disagreed, "It would be a catastrophe to appease this loud minority of opponents."
He was joined by Siegel, Will Hickman, James Avioli Sr., and Phil Nauert in approving the ordinance. Nathan and Friedberg voted against it.
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