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Great Neck considers plan for colony of feral, stray cats

A feral cat is seen behind a CVS

A feral cat is seen behind a CVS Pharmacy on Middle Neck Road in Great Neck on Tuesday, June 7, 2016. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Village of Great Neck is considering what to do with a colony of feral and stray cats, including a feeding ban that critics call “inhumane” and misguided.

For years, two or three volunteers have fed, sterilized and managed the cats that hang around a village parking lot behind the CVS on Middle Neck Road, but a village official said the four families whose homes border the lot have renewed complaints about cats defecating and hanging out on their properties.

“The residents feel that they’re not able to enjoy their property because of the cat population,” said village clerk-treasurer Joe Gill.

“The village is in the middle. What can we do? We’re very limited in what we can do.”

The issue appeared to be resolved two years ago when the previous administration took away the cat shelters on the lot and the colony volunteers agreed to remove food dishes after a half-hour or so.

Then about a month ago, the village sent residents a notice, “Feeding cats on village property not permitted.” Though there is no specific ordinance on the village books against feeding feral cats, the notice said violators could be taken to court and fined.

In the notice, the village asked witnesses to take photos of people feeding cats and take down license plates so authorities could find the violators. “If you have been feeding the feral cats, please stop,” the notice read.

Mayor Pedram Bral and residents living by the colony could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

The notice has rallied animal lovers and groups against the village, where the board of trustees discussed the issue at its meeting Tuesday night. No bill on the cats’ fate has been put on the table. There are now about a dozen cats.

“You might take their food away, they are going to remain,” said Elizabeth Stein, a New Hyde Park attorney who specializes in animal cases and intervened with the village two years ago. “Now they are going to scavenge the food. When these people are having their barbecues, those feral cats are going to be waiting for a hot dog to be flung off the grill.”

Under county health laws, feeding of wild animals must be supervised, with the food taken up and not left around for rodents. In many cases, state law makes withholding of food from animals a crime.

Gill said village officials have recently been educated about the colony and cats’ habits.

Holly Berns, a village resident and one of the colony’s primary caretakers, said she and volunteers have abided by laws and wants to find a solution: “I don’t want any harm to come to the animals. I just want them to live in peace and get fed.”

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