Spector of Ballot Initiative Brings TNR to Mt. Olive

feral catUpdate: Mt. Olive Township, New Jersey, has voted to approve the TNR ordinance.

Proponents worked for months to try to get the Township to consider and approve the ordinance. The Township did so only after TNR supporters undertook a ballot initiative which would mean voters could approve a TNR ordinance regardless of whether town officials agreed.

The good news is everyone came together and did the best thing for the feral cats.

For more on this, read Animal Law Coalition’s earlier report below. (Please thank the officials listed below for passing this ordinance, a humane way to reduce feral cat populations.)

Under the new ordinance Mt. Olive Township TNR Project will manage or serve as sponsor for feral cat caregivers. The sponsor must maintain liability insurance for all TNR-related activities and name Mt. Olive Township as an additional insured. The sponsor will also review and approve of feral cat caregivers, resolve any complaints; maintain records provided by colony caregivers on the size and location of the colonies as well as the vaccination and spray/neuter records of cats in the sponsor’s colonies; and report annually to the Township on the following:

a. number of colonies in the Township; 

b. total number of cats in colonies;

c. number of cats and kittens spayed and neutered pursuant to the TNR program; and

d. number of cats and kittens placed in permanent homes.

Caregivers are responsible for the following:

a. registering the Feral Cat colony with the Sponsor;

b. keeping cats’ rabies vaccinations current;

c. taking steps to get all cats in the colony population spayed/neutered by a licensed veterinarian;

d. providing the sponsor with descriptions of each cat in the colony and copies of documents evidencing that the cats have been vaccinated, spayed/neutered, and eartipped;

e. providing food, water and, if feasible, suitable shelter for colony cats;

f. observing the colony cats and keeping a record of any illnesses or unusual behavior noticed in any colony cats;

g. obtaining the approval of the owner of any property to which the Caregiver requires access to provide colony care;

h. in the event that kittens are born to a colony cat, taking steps to remove the kittens from the colony after they have been weaned, and place the kittens in homes, foster homes, or with animal shelters, rescue organizations or veterinary offices for the purpose of subsequent permanent placement;

i. reporting annually in writing to the Sponsor on the status of the colony, including data on the number and gender of all cats in the colony, the number of cats who died or otherwise ceased being a part of the colony during the year, the number of kittens bom to colony cats and their disposition, and the number of cats and kittens placed in permanent homes as companion cats; and

j. obtaining proper medical attention for any colony cat who appears to require it.

An Animal Control Officer who has trapped a cat whose left ear has been tipped shall contact the Sponsor so that the Sponsor can identify the cat and return the cat to the colony.

The Township has these rights: 

a. the right to seize or remove cats from a colony who have not been vaccinated against rabies and who are demonstrating signs of the disease.

b. the right to seize or remove a cat from a colony who is creating a nuisance, after the Caregiver and Sponsor have been given 60 days to remove and relocate the cat and have failed to do so. That time may be reduced if the cat is injured or poses a significant threat to the public health.

c. the right to seize or remove a colony of cats when the Caregiver regularly fails to comply with the ordinance and the Sponsor has not been able to obtain a replacement or substitute Caregiver within 60 days of the Township’s notice to the sponsor of the Caregiver’s failure to comply with the ordinance.

Original report: feral catMt. Olive Township may soon join the many other New Jersey towns that have trap neuter return programs for feral cats.  An ordinance adopting such a program is scheduled to be introduced with a vote on August 4, 2009.

The ordinance was requested by Michele Lerner, an attorney and policy specialist for Project TNR.  It is the goal of Project TNR to introduce Trap-Neuter-Return as the humane, effective and cost effective method of controlling feral cat populations. Project TNR is a comprehensive program that will result in lower animal control costs, fewer to no births, reduction of nuisance complaints by residents and alleviation of public health concerns.

Go here for more information on work by Lerner in establishing TNR programs in New Jersey.

Though the township health officer, Frank Wilpert, animal control officer, William Cirone, and attorney, Peter King, have expressed opposition to  the TNR ordinance, Mayor David Scapicchio is now on board with putting the proposal to a vote by the city council.

This vote comes, however, after months of effort by Lerner and Project TNR and dozens of other organizations and citizens. They worked to educate the township officials at numerous meetings about TNR, how the program would humanely reduce the population of feral cats and save the township animal control costs.

Significantly, Project TNR also began a ballot initiative, obtaining 780 or more signatures, far in excess of the 463 signatures needed to put the issue on the November ballot for voters, not the city council, to decide. This was likely the impetus for the mayor and council’s willingness to consider the proposal.

Under New Jersey state law voters in a municipality have the right to propose and pass or reject ordinances by ballot initiatives. Voters in a municipality can also reject ordinances already approved by local government through the process of referendum.  N.J. Stat. §§ 40:69A-184-192

It is likely TNR supporters will proceed with the ballot initiative should the township council decide not to adopt TNR.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

The town council’s August 4 meeting will be held at the municipal building on Flanders-Drakestown Road in Mt. Olive Township at 7:30 p.m. EST. Find the names and email addresses and other contact information for Mt. Olive Township council members here.  You can also write or call the mayor and council members:

Mount Olive Township
204 Flanders-Drakestown Road
Budd Lake, N.J. 07828

Telephone: (973) 691-0900

WHAT YOU SHOULD SAY

Very politely urge the mayor and council members to support trap neuter return as a humane solution to overpopulation of feral cats and to save animal control costs. Under the township’s current policy which was just re-affirmed in May, 2009, feral cats are trapped when a complaint is received and then euthanized after seven days. This method in no way will reduce the population of feral cats and means valuable animal control resources are spent trapping one or two cats and then housing and euthanizing them. This makes no sense when TNR has been proven to be an effective, humane way to control feral cat populations and costs the local government very little.