Radnor aims to make owners out of stray-animal feeders

Posted: July 12, 2013

Radnor Township officials want residents who feed feral cats or stray dogs to become the animals' owners - like it or not.

A proposed ordinance would make anyone who feeds a stray animal on a regular basis responsible for vaccinating it for rabies and obtaining any required state license. The ordinance stipulates fines of up to $1,000 a day.

Hearings are scheduled to begin next month on the ordinance, introduced Monday.

Township Manager Robert Zenkowski; Kevin Kochanski, the community development director; and Police Superintendent William Colarulo did not return calls for comment.

The initiative has ruffled the feathers of animal advocates in the Main Line community. They say it would be nearly impossible to implement.

"They want to make a criminal out of someone who is doing a community service on their own time and with their own money," said Carol Cavallo, an animal advocate who lives in Bryn Mawr.

"I'm all for preventing rabies," said Joe Siciliano, another animal advocate, but the proposal would be "very difficult and impractical" to enforce.

Feral cats are difficult to trap, and keeping a collar on one may not work, he said.

Siciliano said Radnor is home to several feral-cat colonies, but how many is impossible to know. People who care for the animals keep a low profile so others don't dump more strays or harm the homeless cats.

"I don't think, just because you feed an animal, you own it," he said. "If a number of people feed the cats, are they all considered owners?"

The driving concern is rabies, said Elaine Schaefer, president of the commissioners. She said that if someone chooses to feed a feral cat, the resident would be considered an owner and therefore obligated to vaccinate the feline, as required by state law.

Schaefer said she did not know if any rabies cases involving felines had been reported in the township.

Schaefer added that the police department is not set up to monitor or enforce the proposed law. She said she supports trap, neuter, and release groups that have been working with the feral colonies and hoped that a group would step forward to assume responsibility for strays.

"There is no plan," said John Fisher, a township commissioner. Members of the Board of Commissioners support vaccinating animals but differ on how to deal with strays. He advocates funding for the animal-control groups and heavy fines for animal dumpers.

Said Fisher, "You can't just make a law and hope all the problems go away."

Contact Mari A. Schaefer at 610-313-8111, mschaefer@phillynews.com or @MariSchaefer on Twitter.

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