UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (CN) – Cat-lovers want Prince George’s County to clarify its law that prohibits Good Samaritans from feeding feral cats, or taking them to a vet, unless they take out ownership licenses for the kitties. Prince George’s Feral Friends claims county law “penalizes Good Samaritans for rendering aid to free-roaming cats and promotes unnecessary government expenditure.”
The county ordinance claims that anyone who feeds a feral cat for “an undetermined period of time, usually 30 days or longer,” becomes the cat’s owner. If the cat is returned to where it was found, the new owner can be fined for “failing the duties of animal ownership.”
Feral Friends says its members have been fined for “providing emergency medical care, rabies vaccine and spay/neuter surgery,” to feral cats for which they have “not obtained licensure.”
“Prince George’s County deems all free-roaming cats ‘feral’ for purposes of exercising Respondent’s (ownership) right to capture and euthanize free-roaming cats as ‘nuisance animals’ without providing notice to any citizen,” the group says. (Parentheses in complaint.)
Feral Friends claims the county “imputes ownership of these same animals,” without regard to whether the cat is actually feral or just a stray.
“And without providing any identifying information to distinguish one cat from the next, respondents fine and penalize petitioners for creating a ‘public nuisance’ without ever having identified the specific animal causing the nuisance,” Feral Friends says.
The group sued Prince George’s County, the County Commission for Animal Control and the Animal Management Division of the County’s Department of Environmental Resources. It seeks declaratory relief, and claims the county violated Maryland’s Open Meetings Act by never holding a public hearing on the regulation.
The SPCA-affiliated group is represented by Anne Beharoya of Rockville, Md.
(Inexplicably, Feral Friends’ 7-page lawsuit does not cite T.S. Eliot’s “Book of Practical Cats,” in which the Nobel Laureate points out that no one actually owns a cat. Cats tolerate our presence.)