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City revisiting program targeting feral cats

Washington officials are preparing to — again — address the feral cat problem downtown.

City Manager Bobby Roberson, during the City Council’s Nov. 6 meeting, briefly discussed the issue. In September, Councilman Doug Mercer said he would like for the city to revisit the effort to feed feral cats in downtown Washington. In 2012, the city established a policy that governs that feeding program. Mercer said it’s time to evaluate that policy and its effectiveness.

“We did do some research. We don’t have all the information from the new organization. It was formerly the Cats About Town. The name of that organization is now the Feline Outreach of Beaufort County,” Roberson said at the Nov. 6 meeting. “We did send information to them, and they were supposed to respond to the information. We haven’t received that yet. We will bring you an update at the January meeting about our responsibilities about cats in the central business district.”

Roberson said the organization has not filed required reports listing its activities, but is the process of providing those reports.

Mercer said the organization working with the feral cats is required to file an application with the city each year to continue its work.

In 2013, the council amended the city code to provide an exemption for certain groups and/or individuals to feed feral cats in specific areas of the city. Anyone else feeding animals in those areas will be violating the city code and be subject to a $50 civil fine for each violation. Exemptions, if granted, are subject to annual renewal by the council or withdrawn by the council at any time and for any reason.

Mercer said he does not believe the council has been making the annual renewals.

The council also decriminalized such violations. Previously, such violations were treated as misdemeanors. The amendment approved by the council also further defines where the feeding of animals is prohibited.

The prohibition includes all city-owned parks, facilities, boardwalks, roads, easements and rights of way including, but not limited to, the following areas:

  • Downtown — area further defined by Bridge Street on the west, Bonner Street on the east, Second Street on the north and the federal channel of the Pamlico River on the south (private single-family residences within the outlined area are exempt from these restrictions);
  • Festival Park;
  • Havens Gardens;
  • Veterans Park; and
  • Boardwalk along the Pamlico River.

Exemptions may be allowed provided the group or individual provides the following information to the council:

  • Overall program description and purpose of program;
  • Locations where animals are to be fed;
  • Times that feeding will occur — times shall be limited to no more than one hour per day;
  • List of individuals (with up-to-date contact information for those people) who will be overseeing the feeding;
  • Disposition of animals fed and/or caught, including, but not limited to, number of animals, locations of animals caught and released and medical procedures or vaccines given; and
  • Any other information, plan and/or requirement the council may impose or require from said individuals or groups.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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