The Animal Alliance of Greater Syracuse and two residents of the town of Salina are suing the town on the grounds that its controversial cat law is unconstitutional.
The suit was filed in New York State Supreme Court Monday, March 26, in advance of a town board meeting during which the board was scheduled to make a decision on a proposed moratorium on a provision of the law pertaining to caretakers of feral cat colonies. The moratorium has now been tabled to give town attorney Robert Ventre time to examine the suit.
“The lawsuit concerns both owned and feral cats,” Ventre said. “Since I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding that the board passed the moratorium in response to the lawsuit, I would suggest this board take no action.”
The board had intended to issue a moratorium of Chapter 70, Section 20, Paragraph C of Salina’s town code, which pertains to caretakers of feral cat colonies and fines to which they may be subjected if they’re found in violation of any section of the cat law. Second Ward Councilor V. James Magnarelli hoped the moratorium would allow the board and cat advocates time to rewrite the controversial law so that it would be satisfactory for all parties involved.
The tabling of the moratorium came as good news to several residents of Garden City Drive in Mattydale, who attended the meeting to speak against its adoption. Those residents live near Jude Jenkins, a feral cat rescuer who has registered as such with the town.
“I’ve had damage done to my property for years by the cats,” said Kathy Eppolito of 319 Garden City Drive. “I’ve had animals for years of my own, dogs and cats, but they were never allowed to go on other people’s property. I don’t feel I should have to put up with losing flowers… I’m sick and tired of the stench in the yard. I’m fed up with it. I hope you do not pass that moratorium.”
Eppolito told the board she was sure the cats were coming from Jenkins’ home.
“We have complained to her for years and all we hear is, ‘Well, people drop them off,” Eppolito said. “Then take them to the SPCA. We’ve had enough.”
The lawsuit, meanwhile, was filed by the AAGS and two individuals against the town in response to the trapping of cats by the town’s animal control officer. It alleges that she trapped at least three cats knowing that they were owned by these two individuals and made no effort to locate the cats’ owners. The suit alleges that the cat owners’ constitutional rights were violated, as they were not given their day in court, and the cats were delivered to the SPCA. In addition, two of the cats were euthanized without notifying the owner. One of the cats was rescued by chance a day before it was to be put down. The suit asks for monetary damages of $700.
Linda Young, president of AAGS, was disappointed that Ventre was using the suit as a reason to put off action on the moratorium.
“The lawsuit has nothing to do with the moratorium,” Young said. “I’m afraid it’s going to set us back.”
She feared the existing law, which will continue to be enforced while the suit is pending, will do more damage in the interim.
“During the moratorium, Jim Magnarelli and I were supposed to be working on this,” Young said. “And actually I have Alley Cat Allies and Humane Society of the United States working with us and sending sample laws and advice to us. They’ve offered to call the town councilors. I don’t know at what point now to have them do that. I don’t know what good it will do.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.