Cat lovers spoke out against a proposed ban on feeding feral cats in Babylon Village at a board meeting Tuesday. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost; Anthony Florio

Dozens of upset cat lovers descended on Babylon Village Hall Tuesday night to speak out against a proposed ban on feeding feral cats.

The village may add feral cats to code restricting the “keeping” of certain animals. The proposed law would read: “No person shall harbor, keep and/or maintain within the Village limits any animal, wild animal, fowl, or feral cat.”

A feral cat would be defined as “any cat that is born in the wild and is not socialized, is the offspring of an owned or feral cat and is not socialized, or is a formerly owned cat that has been abandoned and is no longer socialized.”

 A violation of the proposed ban would result in a fine of up to $250 or a jail term of up to 15 days, or both.

Mayor Mary Adams addressed a standing room-only crowd at Tuesday's hearing on the proposed law to explain the reasoning behind the measure.

“An area of our community has been complaining about something that’s been going on that has been very detrimental to the residents there as well as to our wildlife in Southards [Pond Park],” she said. 

Feeding ferals

The mayor noted someone has been feeding feral cats there and “plates of food are blowing into Southards” and wildlife are “going to suffer because they’re not used to being fed that way.”

Board trustees didn't vote on the ban, with Adams saying they would further study the proposed language.

Adams added she’s hoping to work with Linda Stuurman, 69, president of Last Hope Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation, and John DeBacker, 30, vice president of Long Island Cat and Kitten Solution “on a program that we can put together that will hopefully benefit everybody.”

The rest of the board echoed Adams' desire to work with animal groups. 

“Obviously if we can limit the number of colonies that we do have that are not inside the parks that would benefit the quality of life situation,” Trustee Anthony Cardali said.

Stuurman and DeBacker told Newsday they recently spoke with Adams. Stuurman called the proposed ban “inhumane” and said she advised Adams to designate feeding station areas for feral cats.

Stuurman works with the Town of Babylon and other municipalities on “trap, neuter, return” programs, or TNR, whereby feral cats are trapped and then spayed or neutered and returned to where they live. 

'A few bad apples'

“There’s a difference between a responsible feeder and someone who just throws food down and leaves,” DeBacker told Newsday. “Everyone shouldn’t have to suffer because of a few bad apples.”

Levittown resident Christine Lanteri, 58, told Newsday she's been feeding five neutered cats near Southards Pond Park for two years. She said she removes paper plates and any food afterward but has gotten tickets from code enforcement for littering.

“I can’t believe there’s this much drama over feeding five little cats," Lanteri added.

Model for village

Babylon Town Animal Shelter director Chris Elton offered the board his assistance. He told Newsday the town often provides traps and low-cost neutering vouchers along with plans to resolve tension between feeders and neighbors.

Lisa Jaeger, who runs the nonprofit Jaeger’s Run Animal Rescue out of Port Jefferson, told the board that village works with the group, providing funding for trap, neuter, return work in a partnership that could be a model for villages like Babylon.

"We would love for this to all go away but the only way it’s going to go away is if villages like you implement a TNR program," she said.

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