L.A. Animal Services, Mayor and Council Set To Give Feral Cats Property Rights in Los Angeles (Part 1)
A “Cat Program” developed by L.A. Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette is awaiting the green light to spread over the city of Los Angeles, ravage private-property rights, ignore health and safety issues for people and animals, and establish Los Angeles as a Sanctuary City for Feral Cats.
While a property owner or renter may, under local and State trespass/nuisance laws, remove (or have removed) a human or other animal who enters, urinates, defecates or otherwise damages his/her property, that will no longer be true of cats. Under the proposed L.A. City Feral Cat Program, felines will gain an inherent right to be on your residential or commercial property and conduct themselves, well, like cats.
TAKING FERAL CATS TO SHELTERS BECAUSE THEY ARE A NUISANCE WILL BE PROHIBITED
This is not a scare tactic — it is a reality. And it will apparently be voted into law soon, unless constituents demand that their city council representatives back off the emotional hype and pressure from feral/stray/community/“feral freedom” cat groups who want us to believe merely sterilizing and re-abandoning stray cats into the street (which is a violation of state law) is a humane solution to homelessness for unowned felines.
I, like thousands of Angelenos, am willingly ruled by the whims and demands of a very vocal, irresistible rescued kitty whose former owner put her outside and left to enter drug rehab. I live in a mid-city Los Angeles area where life is filled with daily reminders of the brutal realities of the streets, where outdoor cats — fed, sterilized, or not — do not do well.
Abandoned and feral cats sit under greasy cars and peer out, terrified of the unnatural enemies who stalk, chase and throw objects at them, accelerate vehicles to try to hit them, or place toxic substances in food to sicken or kill them. Somehow I can’t wrap my head or my heart around what part of this proposal is “humane.”
THE TRAP-NEUTER-RELEASE TAKEOVER
On Oct. 3, 2013, the L.A. City Bureau of Engineering released a “Notice of Intent to Adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration” on a project identified as, Citywide Cat Program (W.O. E1907610). This was the result of a required California Environmental Quality Act analysis which they conducted specifically to enable Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR).
The goal is to rid the city of a pesky injunction that resulted from a lawsuit by the Urban Wildlands Group regarding the negative effects of feral cats on the environment, including the impact on birds and wildlife, in an earlier TNR program. The injunction also stopped the misuse of city spay/neuter money designated for owned animals but being used to perform sterilization of stray cats and then dump them back into the streets.
Much of the concern by the Urban Wildlands Group was the fact that Los Angeles has never been interested in nor attempted to enact a program that addresses owner responsibility to not allow cats to roam and to require microchips so they cannot be abandoned without penalty. No such mitigating measure exists under the currently proposed “Cat Program” either. Merely trapping some of the abandoned animals and then abandoning them again after they are altered is proposed as a satisfactory solution.
In simplistic terms, the Bureau of Engineering, a city department and de facto defendant to that lawsuit, was paid through a city charitable fund (which we will discuss in Part 2) to develop a Mitigated Negative Declaration saying that it is now OK to do what the judge said the city cannot do.
The mitigation measure offered by the report is merely to exclude the formation of cat colonies on “environmentally sensitive areas or parks.” The rest of the city, including right next to your private yard, is open to feral cat colonies and their caretakers or feeders. There is no mitigation of the impact on the property owner or residents.
PROPOSED ‘FERAL CAT PROGRAM’ ELIMINATES CAT LIMITS FOR OUTDOOR CATS
The Project Description includes the establishment of a “Cat Program involving the citywide coordination of actions and activities that will accomplish increased spay/neuter of cats.” The proposed program also includes “increasing the number of cats that may be kept [per property] without a kennel permit to five cats; allowing the feeding of free-roaming cats in colonies, and exempting cat colony operators from cat kennel permit requirements.” (Thus feral cats and cat-colony operators do not need permission.)
If the “Cat Program” proposed by Los Angeles Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette is approved by city council and the mayor, feral cats can be established in a cat colony of dozens or even hundreds on any public property adjacent to your home or business, and you will have no right to remove them when they invade your nearby property. There will be a feral cat feeder who comes regularly to dump food at the “feeding” location to assure that the colony remains your close neighbor.
CATS BECOME VICTIMS OF COYOTES AND OTHER PREDATORS, INCLUDING HUMANS
Another sad consequence of feeding cats outdoors is that the food attracts other predators to whom the cats themselves become victims. These predators may include raccoons, birds of prey and — especially — coyotes. Anyone who has ever called the city’s Wildlife Specialist to complain about neighborhood pets being attacked and/or consumed by coyotes is told the number one deterrent is to not leave food outside. The “Cat Program,” therefore, violates the City’s own prohibition.
IS IT KIND TO TEACH FERAL CATS TO TRUST HUMANS?
Cats can increasingly become victims of those who do not want them in the community. By making stray animals dependent upon humans for food, we also remove their fear of humans who may harm them. Few communities would say that stray cats are “welcomed,” and because there are still carryovers of taboos about cats, unfortunately there are still those who wish to hurt them — just because they are cats. Thus, retaining their innate fear of other species (especially humans) is a self-preservation tool that is absolutely essential to homeless outdoor cats.
HOW HAS TRAP-NEUTER-RELEASE WORKED IN OTHER AREAS?
The feline group dwelling on Harding Blvd. is one of over 300 registered TNR cat colonies in the city, some of which exist on residential streets.
“The devastation and damage [the cats have] caused is incredible,” says long-time Harding Blvd. resident Jane Flanders. “I have to clean out half a recycling bag full of feces from my front lawn all the time. … They’re killing all the songbirds in my backyard.”
“About 13 feral cats that have been trapped and spayed or neutered were reportedly released to occupy the quaint boulevard near Kingston and Birchmount Roads. They use backyards as living rooms and front porches as urinals, residents report.”
The Missouri House has just passed a bill that would take away business owners’ ability to ban firearms in parking lots. Businesses can still maintain gun-free zones within the actual places of business, so employees can still refuse service to anybody carrying a firearm. The bill simply takes parking lots out of businesses’ jurisdiction, so to speak, by giving gun owners the freedom to keep guns in their parked cars.
Company-owned cars are a special exception to the rule. Employees will not be able to keep firearms in company cars if the business maintains a no-guns policy.
Gun rights advocates shouldn’t celebrate just yet – the bill will have to make its way through the Senate before it becomes law, and there’s always the threat of a veto.
This bill is great for gun rights proponents, but it’s kind of a double-edged sword. The bill promotes individual Second Amendment rights at the expense of private property rights. Business owners could lose the ability to regulate their own property. Shouldn’t the person who owns the parking lot be able to decide who or what enters the property? Why can a business owner kick a gun owner out of his store but not off of his parking lot?
This is particularly troublesome because many gun rights proponents also promote individual property and privacy rights. When these two rights conflict with one another, gun rights proponents suddenly have to choose sides.
Generally, individuals’ privacy rights trump other Constitutional rights. For example, a person has the right to kick somebody out of his home for any reason whatsoever – that includes not liking guests who carry firearms. That generally applies in privately owned businesses, but with this bill it wouldn’t apply in parking lots.
Of course, this bill also has practicality on its side. A gun owner can certainly respect a business’ policy even if he doesn’t agree with it, leaving his weapon behind as he enters a guns-free establishment. If he can't take it in with him, where else would a gun owner store a weapon besides his car?
It’s hard to predict the future of the bill, especially since gun owners have reason to oppose it. As important as gun rights are to some people, is the right to do whatever you please on your own private property even more important?