By Cecilia Chan,GSN Managing Editor
A Gilbert man who’s been fined twice for feeding stray cats on public property has offered a compromise to Town Council.
Paul Rodriguez and four other Gilbert residents recently stood in front of Town Hall before the start of a council meeting, wearing poster-size boards around their necks with messages proclaiming their feelings about the town’s feeding ban on feral animals.
“We are currently reviewing his proposal and Vice Mayor (Eddie) Cook has offered to meet with Mr. Rodriguez to discuss this further,” said Jennifer Harrison, town spokeswoman.
The two have met and are in discussions, according to Rodriguez last week.
Rodriguez, who has been speaking at every council meeting since last year, wants the ordinance repealed or amended.
He raised the issue of a possible solution at the most recent council meeting on March 21.
He said because the ban seems to stem from concerns of cat food littering public rights-of-way, attracting other creatures and being a nuisance, he has a simple proposal that he has emailed to all the council members.
“My compromise is if you are going to feed these cats, please measure what you are putting out, don’t put out more than what is necessary,” said Rodriguez, who described himself as an advocate for homeless cats and kittens in Gilbert. “It may involve circling back to wherever you are putting the food out and cleaning up, if anything is left.”
His proposal also includes not putting any cat food near roadways.
Rodriguez and a network of volunteers have for years been trapping, sterilizing and feeding homeless cats in Gilbert in a program known as Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR.
The idea behind the program is a sterilized feral cat colony would keep other cats from coming into an area and would naturally die off. Sterilizing the cats also helps reduce unwanted behavior such as spraying and yowling.
Part of the program’s protocol is feeding the fixed cats subsequent to their release back to where they were trapped.
If not, they either starve in place or they roam in search of food, which creates a vacuum effect with other cats moving into the area, defeating the purpose of stabilizing a population in a specific location, according to Rodriguez.
He and other volunteer caregivers pay for the cats’ sterilization, veterinary bills and food out of their own pockets. Rodriguez has been doing TNR for 13 years.
Most caregivers have a route they go on with feeding stations set up to feed cats. They say any mess left behind from a feeding are from rogue feeders.
Since the council passed the ban last May, people are not allowed to feed cats that are on town property such as parks and sidewalks and they can’t put food in traps on town property. They can do TNR on private property, however not all stray cats are on private land.
Rodriguez at the meeting said he was up until 3:30 a.m. one day in Gilbert trapping five cats; Four were females and three of them were pregnant with a total of 13 fetuses. Breeding season for cats in the Valley is March to September.
“Those were 13 kittens that would have been in Gilbert,” he said. “Mind you, that is just one little spot in this little town. Just imagine how many more are out and that I and others have not gotten to. Those kittens have nothing to look forward to except heat, hunger and God knows what else.”
Rodriguez also proposed the town put on its website links to Animal Defense League of Arizona and Somanycats.org for the public to learn more about TNR.
Gilbert is the only municipality in the Valley with this ban.
Nearby municipalities such as Mesa, Tempe and Chandler have embraced TNR.
Maricopa County has an estimated 250,000 free-roaming outdoor or stray cats, according to the Arizona Humane Society, which promotes TNR as an effective, humane way to deal with the issue.