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Local law makes DeWitt no longer the cat's meow

A cute meow can no longer win a cat's case with animal lovers in the town of DeWitt. On July 14, the DeWitt Town Board unanimously passed a local law that will restrict the feeding of cats outdoors. Top reasons include the increase in feline population and the damage they've been causing in neighborhoods throughout the town. Recent complaints led the town to take action.

Residents have informed Dog Control Officer Bill Pulaski about several cat fights -- 14 to date this year -- with one that resulted in a positive test for rabies. Damage to lawns, gardens, screen doors and scratches on cars are also among charges reported.

DeWitt resident Kristina McDermott, who lives with her grandmother, said cats try to get inside their car and house, and walk between, in front and in back of her grandmother's legs who is already unsteady on her feet.

"Something needs to be done," she said during the public hearing.

While there is no regulation in the town of DeWitt as to how many cats a person can own, board members weighed in on the question of how you keep them on your own property.

"This is very difficult to control," Supervisor Ed Michalenko said about the wandering cats and the new local law. "It will be complaint-driven. If we can cut the outdoor feeding, it's a start."

The local law applies to those people who leave bowls of food outside for a day or longer unsupervised -- it does not mean a pet owner can't feed their own cats outside while they sit with them. Additionally, if someone's feeding and caring for a cat outdoors that they don't regard as their own, it's still considered "harboring" a cat, which would make that person ultimately responsible for the cat's actions on other properties. In extreme situations, civil action could be taken.

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