Lewes updates feral cat ordinance

Neutered felines may be returned to the city
April 12, 2019

Amid continuing disagreement on the finer details, Lewes Mayor and City Council adopted a new ordinance for the handling of feral cats. 

Council voted 4-1 April 8 to remove euthanasia from the ordinance and promote a trap, neuter and release approach. 

Councilman Rob Morgan was the lone vote against, as he did not agree cats should be released back into Lewes. Morgan has spearheaded the effort to update the ordinance; he found state regulations prohibit feral cats from being relocated to a migratory bird flyway, which Lewes lies within.

The new ordinance is considered temporary, as council continues to work out details.

Walt Fenstermacher, director of operations at Brandywine Valley SPCA, says all trapped cats brought to his organization’s shelters are assessed for adoption. If they are friendly and easily handled, they will be put up for adoption. Fractious cares are released back into the wild as soon as possible for the safety of the cat and anyone who may handle it at the shelter. In most cases, the shelter returns it to the area where it was trapped.

Fenstermacher applauded council’s decision.

“This is the season for the animals to reproduce,” he said. “I think that’s critical in considering a temporary ordinance change. The population in Lewes as it stands is pretty low, but that can grow exponentially in a matter of weeks and months as this process goes on.”

Lewes has had feral cat colonies on McFee Street and on Lewes Beach near the Dairy Queen.

Morgan suggested trapped cats could be relocated to public lands or farms in western Sussex County.

Bette Lazzaro, who works with All About Animals Rescue Delmarva, urged council to allow unadoptable cats to return to Lewes. 

“A lot of the time, it’s a death knell for a cat if they’re not returned to where they are trapped,” she said.

She said cats can’t just be placed somewhere else. 

“If you release the cat immediately, the cat will probably die,” she said.

She added that permanently removing cats from an area likely will not solve the problem, as that often leads to other feral cats moving in.

Council is expected to continue discussing the feral cat ordinance in the coming months.