Cat law controversy in Lackawanna

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. -- Most towns and cities in Erie County have embraced a program called TNVR. That stands for "trapping, neutering, vaccinating and returning" stray cats, and it's done to control their numbers. But Lackawanna has yet to begin the practice.

"If you read the law in Lackawanna, if a stray cat is found in Lackawanna, [the animal control officer] can pick it up and destroy it. It says right in their laws," said Edie Offhaus, President of Operation Pets.

Operation Pets is a local, non-profit business that spays and neuters cats and dogs. They're pushing the Lackawanna City Council to embrace TNVR because they don't want neighborhood cats to end up euthanized.

City Council president Hank Pirowski says even though the law is written that way, their animal control officer is not on a witch hunt.

"We do not go out capturing cats, period. We do not set up traps to capture cats. The only way that would ever be done is if we have a particular citizen giving numerous complaints," he said in a phone interview late Thursday afternoon.

The way the law is written now also says people can be fined for just for feeding stray cats. Pirowski said he feels it's just.

"People's neighbors right now may be allergic to cats. And they can't have somebody next door feeding 20 cats three times a day," he said.

Pirowski was referring to one such case where a resident is currently being prosecuting for feeding cats to the point where her neighbors complained.

He says typically, residents shouldn't worry about animal control citations.

"He is not going to look for every citizen that is feeding cats. If we have neighbors complaining about somebody doing so excessively, or not following the proper guidelines, then maybe he will, by complaint, go an take care of the situation," Pirowski said.

In December, the Erie County legislature passed a resolution unanimously supporting TNVR and encouraging all municipalities within its boundaries to do the same, and the Erie County SPCA says it saves money.

"It is the best financially sustainable plan that there is, and that's something that's come from national organizations as well such as the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States.

Still, the Lackawanna City council won't budge.

"I'm sure the Erie County legislature did what they thought was best for Erie County, and [we] are going to do what's best for the City of Lackawanna," said Pirowski.

"What I want to cay to the council is get with it. Get the spay-neuter done, accept TNVR, and along with that feeding and caring for these animals," said Offhaus.

Operation Pets has neutered and spayed 1,397 cats since its operation began in 2008.


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