A cat fight of sorts has dug its claws into the York City Council.

Council members have spent several weeks mulling a proposal that would make it illegal to feed feral cats — unless you can prove you have trapped the cat, had it spayed or neutered and then released it back into the wild.

That idea triggered a tsunami of criticism from cat lovers, many of whom said they spend their own time and money rescuing cats from life on the streets and ridding city neighborhoods of the problems the feral animals can cause.

So, at a meeting Tuesday, the council decided to return to the drawing board. They've kicked the proposal back to committee.

As it's written, the current proposal is "convoluted," Councilman Michael Helfrich said.

And, Helfrich said, it's the people who abandon cats on city streets who should be prosecuted.

On that, everyone in the room seemed to agree.

The debate: At the center of the debate is a concept known as TNR — which stands for trap, neuter, release.

According to TNR proponents, it's an effective method of controlling the cat population and curbing some of cats' more offensive behaviors. Unable to breed, the cats are better neighbors who control the rodent population and then slowly die off.

Councilman David Satterlee said he's heard from many city residents who don't want cats released back onto city streets.

Councilman Henry Nixon said he has received the same feedback.


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The residents: But for Judy Fry and several other city residents who addressed the council Tuesday, TNR is a method that has worked.

Fry, who lives on East Locust Street, said the neighborhood had become a dumping ground for unwanted cats.

Neighbors banded together, trapping the cats to have them neutered and then releasing them back onto the streets. Today, there are only three left, Fry said.

"We're all here for a reason — all the humans, all the creatures," she said.

Jane Heller, an animal-rights activist, warned the council against "unintended consequences when you start killing things."

On the other side of the debate are people like Alicia Bligen, who lives in the 500 block of East Philadelphia Street. Bligen's complaints of cats "wreaking havoc" on her neighborhood first triggered the search for a solution.

On Tuesday, Bligen asked the council to pass a "well-balanced law" that also protects residents and their properties.

"All I know is that I'm being overwhelmed," she said Tuesday.

The council's next committee meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday.

— Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.