Indian Harbour Beach Bans Feeding and Care of Feral Cats

Late Tuesday I received word that Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, went through with its proposed ordinance, thereby making it illegal: “for any person to possess, harbor, feed, breed, maintain or keep any feral animals on any public or private property located within the corporate boundaries of the City of Indian Harbour Beach.”

The approved ordinance* reads, in part:

WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Indian Harbour Beach, Florida has determined that feral animals within the City limits can create a nuisance disturbance, prey on common and rare species of native wildlife in Florida, including species listed as threatened or endangered by the state and federal governments, carry and spread diseases, destroy property, compete with native wildlife for food and shelter, as well as copious fecal deposits made by said feral animals; and,

WHEREAS, the City Council has determined that prohibiting the feeding, breeding, maintaining, harboring and keeping of feral animals promotes the general welfare of the citizenry by preventing the proliferation of feral animals; and

WHEREAS, permitting the establishment of feral animal colonies on City owned property may result in liability on the part of the City at the expense of the taxpayers of the City, and

WHEREAS, Brevard County has conducted numerous public hearings concerning feral cats and also established a moratorium on the establishment of any new feral cat colonies in the County; however, the County seems to be no closer to resolving this dispute over feral cat colonies and if the moratorium expires it will leave the City open to the creation of additional feral cat colonies being established in the City; and,

WHEREAS, the City Council finds that this ordinance promotes the general health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the City.


If, like me, you wonder how the hell such misguided decisions are made, the ordinance actually provides a hint: among the three “supporting” documents “considered” by the City Council was Feral Cats and Their Management, the poorly researched class project published in 2010 (to great fanfare) by lethal control proponent Stephen Vantassel and his University of Nebraska–Lincoln students.

While I don’t necessarily expect policymakers to be familiar enough with the issue to recognize the UNL paper for the indefensible trash that it is, I do expect them to make decisions based on some kind of evidence. In this case, that might mean modeling Indian Harbour Beach’s ordinance on one that’s proven effective elsewhere. Or demonstrating how (with some reasonable degree of certainty) their community will succeed where others have failed. It doesn’t appear that the city council did either one.

One wonders if those—both on the council and in the community—in favor of the ordinance really think it will reduce the city’s feral cat population.

And if so, why.

*This is according to the version of the ordinance I saw Tuesday afternoon. I understand some minor revisions were made during the city council meeting Tuesday evening, but have no further details at the time of this writing.