Pets Alive’s Speech to the Middletown Council

This speech was given last night, April 3, to the Middletown Council Members in response to the proposed ordinance that would ban the feeding of feral cats and require all renters to carry dog insurance. There were no pictures in my speech. I just added these to break up all this text. The town announced they would continue to review the dog ordinance and were RESCINDING the feral cat ban! THANK YOU MIDDLETOWN COMMON COUNCIL!


Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak.

My name is Kerry Clair and I am the executive director the Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary in Middletown.

We very much appreciate being heard on legislation regarding animal issues.

I’d first like to address the proposal before the council to mandate the purchase of dog insurance by renters.

In every town across the nation, where mandated animal laws were adopted, the law never solved the issue it was supposed to resolve. In every case, towns that adopted ordinances such as insurance requirements, mandatory spay neuter and breed specific legislation have never been successful. The problem is that only the responsible pet owners will follow these mandates. The irresponsible ones will ignore them ANYWAY.

Additionally many landlords will decide the law is not worth the hassle to enforce, and will demand that tenants get rid of their dogs. Where will all of those dogs go? Is there a plan for that? Are you planning on mass killing for all of them? That sounds harsh, but there doesn’t seem to be a plan in place for housing or rehoming these animals that will be surrendered. Already the Middletown Humane Society and surrounding shelters are full and there is already a waiting list to take dogs in. What will now happen to these dogs that tenants will be forced to surrender?

Even if they are not forced by landlords to surrender their dogs, many will not be able to afford to purchase this insurance. An additional $300 a year in insurance , for people already struggling to make ends meet, is simply not affordable for MANY residents of Middletown. Those people will also be forced to give up their pets.

Already so many landlords do not allow pets. We could place so many more animals in homes and have so many fewer animals in shelters if more landlords would allow pets. This law gives them another reason for not dealing with what they perceive to be the hassle of pets in their rental property.

Our second concern is the definition of a bite. The ordinance calls for any person that has a dog that has bitten to carry extra insurance, and uses the term “dangerous dog”. “Dangerous Dog” has a specific legal definition under NYS Agriculture and Markets law. The law has specific circumstances under which a dog can be determined by a judge or justice to be a dangerous animal to the community. For that reason we shouldn’t use or redefine that term when describing a dog that has bitten or nipped someone.

Additionally, who will determine if a family has to carry even MORE insurance because their dog has a bite on his record? Will each bite or nip be analyzed independently? They are not all equal and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Instead, why not require muzzles for dogs that have a past and proven aggressive bite history, when out in public, like the New York State Dangerous Dog Law does? Wouldn’t that be more fair? This will safely enable dogs to be out in public without unfairly penalizing renters and people in Middletown who have perfectly well behaved dogs and are perfectly responsible pet owners.

Will having insurance result in fewer bites? No. What is the goal of this new law and how will it be enforced? Obviously police can’t go house-to-house demanding to see proof of insurance for dogs. Does it only have to be proven if the dog has bitten? And then what happens if the renter doesn’t have that insurance? Do they then get fined? Kicked out? The dog confiscated? Since the town won’t really know if a renter has the insurance until after a bite, why should every owner be penalized if they are responsible and act responsibly in their personal dog ownership?

Since we already know it doesn’t work, as evidenced in other cities that have tried it, why would the city even consider it?

The second and final thing I would like to discuss tonight is the new ban on feeding cats. I respectfully ask that you rescind this ordinance.

THIS METHOD OF CONTROLLING CAT POPULATIONS HAS NEVER, EVER, WORKED. The ONLY way to decrease stray and feral populations of cats is by TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return).

If you have 25 feral cats and you leave them unchecked, every year each female will have one or two litters and those litters will stay IN that feral colony. They will then have their own litters. This will expand exponentially. However if you have 25 cats and you fix them so no offspring are born – THOSE CATS WILL NOT USUALLY ALLOW STRANGE CATS TO JOIN THEM. So as they die (the average life span of a feral cats is about 5 years old) your colony will get smaller and smaller.

Not feeding them and punishing people that feed them will accomplish NOTHING. Starved cats do not “go away”. They are there because well before someone started feeding them, they found a food source. Or good shelter. Or safety. If you don’t help them with a little food, then they may become sick, ill or diseased, and this malnourished condition also makes them more susceptible to parasitic infestations, such as fleas and roundworms which they will then spread in your neighborhood to your family pets, though this does NOT STOP THEM from breeding. Then you have kittens born. Sick kittens in feral colonies DIE. This isn’t good to watch or for visitors to your community to see.

Kindhearted people who help feed these colonies are actually doing a great service. They use their OWN money to provide food and care. Taxpayers and communities save money by not ultimately having to trap them all and kill them when it becomes unmanageable. Trapping, euthanizing and disposing of bodies all cost taxpayer money. So does arresting, fining, or taking people to court for feeding them! When warmhearted citizens feed and care for them it does NOT cost the community a dime.

The city and county should be HELPING with feral management, not hindering it, because in the end it is FAR cheaper to manage such a colony than to just keep killing them all.
Also, really – how can you truly enforce this? Cat lovers who care about these animals aren’t going to simply stop. After I released my blog about this issue, I received the following email from a Middletown resident. She said:

“One reason TNR is the only option is people like me. I would feed the cats in the middle of the night – no matter WHAT the law says. I will not let cats go hungry! I would rather TNR but the law would arrest me or fine me.”

Are you going to have to pay police to monitor every area of woods, or garbage area, or backyard communities? Are you willing to arrest little old ladies and fine them and drag them to court? These caring Middletown citizens will find new and innovative ways to keep feeding.

Not feeding them doesn’t help you. It hurts you. Feral cats will survive ANYWAY. This has been proven in deserts and on deserted islands throughout the world where ferals survive without any nearby human habitation. Within a few years, even without feeding them, you will be so overrun with cats that you will be forced to start taking drastic measure, like killing them…and your rodent population will also be out of control.

I understand that Jane Hoffman who manages the animal situation in NYC in conjunction with the ASPCA has also emailed you a letter in regards to the feeding of feral cats. Please understand that they are managing animals in the largest city in the United States and have tried EVERYTHING with feral cat populations. The letter she sent you explains why TNR is the only way of effectively managing cats. Allie Cat Allies, the largest cat organization in the United States ALSO supports TNR as the only way of managing feral colonies.

I have a rule for my staff. Don’t come to me with problems. Come to me with solutions. As such I offer you this solution. Pets Alive will step up and work with Middletown and Wallkill SOLELY for the next year on our newly developed TNR program. If the town will help cover ½ the cost of altering the cats, Pets Alive will take on the responsibility of the other half, and of all the trapping, transporting and any additional vetting needed. Many local shelters will spay/neuter feral cats for as little as $20-30. We are ready to commit to the cats of Middletown and Wallkill. Will you commit to them too?

If we are going to fix the issues in shelters and help animals in our community, we must all be work together and do everything we can to make it easy to live with your animals in a rental home, easy to get your animals altered, and easy to allow animals in the community. We ask that the Council members please consider working with us to solve the problems the town faces.

Thank you for your time.

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