For some die-hard animal lovers, their furry friends can do no wrong.

And that's fine — if it's on their own property and they don't mind a soiled carpet, chewed shoes or shredded drapes.

If these folks want to take responsibility for the critters and can stand the hassles, more power to them.

It's another story, though, when animals cause problems for their neighbors.

In those cases, there usually are legal remedies to disputes — either through criminal or civil action against the responsible owners.

But what if no one is responsible for the animals?

That's the situation York City officials are grappling with as it tries to deal with a feral cat population.

In response to a resident's complaints, the city council is considering a new law that would make it illegal to feed feral cats.

Alicia Bligen, who lives in the 500 block of East Philadelphia Street, told council members she's spent the past seven years trying to curb the cat problem in her neighborhood — a problem she says is fueled by an out-of-town woman who visits every day to feed the feral animals.

The cats are "wreaking havoc," leaving the neighborhood a smelly mess and making it impossible to enjoy the outdoors, Bligen said. "Something needs to be done about it. It has been years since I have been able to use my grill."

The proposal specifically prohibits people from feeding, housing or otherwise assuming responsibility for wild animals, which includes feral cats.


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These are the offspring of stray or abandoned cats that have never had human contact and live in colonies, reproducing unchecked. (A cat can get pregnant at five months or age and produce a litter two or three times a year.)

Besides causing the kind of trouble bedeviling Bligen, feral cats prey on other wildlife and can spread contagious, fatal diseases to other animals.

The penalty for violating York City's proposed law is a fine between $100 and $1,000. Failure to pay the fine could result in jail time.

An exception would be made for people who can prove they trapped a feral cat, had it spayed or neutered and then released it back into the wild.

Such trap, neuter and release programs are used across the country to help control the estimated 70 million feral cat population. It's the preferred option for some — but not all — animal rights advocates, although some critics say it takes too long, if it's effective at all.

Perhaps not surprisingly, some have taken to social media to criticize a plan that would withhold food from these cats — and blast Bligen for having the gall to complain.

"'I can't use my grill' — who cares?" one person posted on The York Dispatch website. "The government shouldn't have control over whether people feed feral cats or not — they aren't bears. Someone who prioritizes being able to use their itty bitty grill over animals being fed has their heart in the wrong place."

No, these aren't ferocious man-eaters, but we're not talking about Fluffy or Tinkerbell, either. They're wild animals, and if you put enough of them together in an urban environment there are going to be problems.

What if someone decided they're particularly fond of raccoons or rats and decided to feed and grow a colony of those in downtown York?

Now what if they decided to do it right next door to your home?

We can already hear the retort of the very diehard activists: That's just fine, too.

No, it's not.

And that's why York City residents need this ordinance.