Fort Worth feral cat fans have another 30 days to weigh in on Fort Worth's proposed trap-neuter-return ordinance.
The main sticking points, from critics, who generally favor somewhat-regulated "TNR:" Availability of public information about the locations of cat colonies; the amount of the fine for non-compliers and more specific language about who could get fined; and the number of rules outlined in the nine-page ordinance.
The ordinance was designed to stem the euthanasia of 3,000 feral cats at the city's animal shelter per year, and encourage volunteers and organizations already TNR-ing and vaccinating cats to take the heat off the shelter. Critics of the ordinance as written say it would do the opposite.
It's not clear how the two viewpoints meet in the middle. City code officials point out the $2,000 max fine in the ordinance is consistent with other city code rules relating to health and safety. One speaker at Tuesday's council meeting, where the City Council voted to take another 30 days' look at the ordinance, suggested a $50 fine.
The feral fans want locations of the cat colonies - those would have to be registered, under the ordinance - off-limits to the city and public view. A colony of ferals at Trinity Park mysteriously disappeared in December after media coverage about it, and feral cat fans fear "rednecks" and "idiots" may file public information requests with the city to determine the locations of the colonies and eradicate the cats. But City Councilman Danny Scarth remarked Tuesday night that the ordinance would be "untenable" without the city knowing those specifics.
Feral fans want who's fine-able under the ordinance to become more clear. Code officials say people who register as "sponsors" and "caretakers" under the program would not be exposed to fines if something goes awry, because the city's recourse in those cases would be revocation of sponsor or caretaker status. People who maintain feral colonies, but don't register for the program, are the ones who could be subject to fines for non-compliance, code officials say. Feral fans say none of this is clear in the ordinance language. They praise the department's top code officials -- Brandon Bennett and Scott Hanlan -- for caring about this issue, but say the ordinance needs tighter language in place to protect the ferals in the event the department's leadership ever changes.
Big picture, while the idea of a TNR ordinance has broad support from cat lovers, feral fans say the ordinance needs to be skinnied down so good samaritans already doing this work in Fort Worth can understand it and be encouraged to sign up under it. Rose Lynn Scott, a longtime Near South Side TNR volunteer who said Tuesday her Panther City Feral Cat Coalition had just taken 35 cats to be fixed, calls the proposed rules "excessive."
- Scott Nishimura, Star-Telegram city hall reporter