Palmerton cat law put on hold; Council to meet with advocates
Barbara Greenzweig, president of Palmerton Cat Project, makes a case for trap, neuter and release – a program often implemented to address stray or feral cat colonies – at Thursday’s Palmerton Borough Council meeting. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
Donna Crum, Carbon County humane officer, addresses the council at Thursday’s Palmerton Borough Council meeting. See a video from the meeting at tnonline.com. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
Cat advocates crowded Council chambers Thursday night to protest the cat ordinance.
The Palmerton Borough Council will temporarily cease citing residents who use outdoor feeding stations to sustain stray or feral cats in the borough.
“At the present time, there’s a case before the district magistrate (William) Kissner having to do with violation of Ordinance 728,” Councilman Kris Hoffner said. “Because of this, the borough has directed its animal control officer to cease citing residents using feeding stations.”
Hoffner said he contacted Barbara Greenzweig, president of Palmerton Cat Project, to set up a meeting between council members and cat advocates to discuss the issue of feeding stray or feral cats.
“My hopes are that we can reach a compromise that’s acceptable to both the Palmerton Cat Project, borough council, and of course most importantly, the residents of the community,” Hoffner said.
And that was just the beginning of the meeting.
The session, which lasted more than an hour, was dominated by conversation about the borough’s comprehensive animal ordinance which, among other regulations, bans the use of outdoor feeding stations.
Since its adoption in 2017, the ordinance has been hotly contested, with animal rights activists and cat caretakers saying it’s inhumane, and forces residents who do feed stray or feral cats to overlook their duty of care to the animals.
Carbon County Humane Officer Donna Crum of Palmerton was the first to speak.
“We’re not the enemies,” Crum said. “We believe there has to be rules. We want the rules enforced. We just want humane rules enforced.
“The main purpose of Ordinance 728 was to address the health and the safety and the welfare of the residents. By TNR (trap, neuter and release) — that’s actually doing a bigger job than everybody’s imagining.”
Greenzweig, who followed Crum in addressing the council, supported that point.
“My husband and I have resided within the borough of Palmerton for 35 years. In the fall of 2014, we began to address a long-standing problem of unfixed feral cats who were breeding out of control the next block up,” Greenzweig said. “We began trapping, spaying and neutering, getting the cats the rabies and distemper shots. We were paying for it out of our own pocket initially.”
In 2018, Greenzweig said, the Palmerton Cat Project trapped 52 cats, spayed, neutered and medically assessed the felines and gave them their shots. In addition to that, 39 abandoned cats and kittens were rescued by the project, medically cleared and adopted.
Sandy Buchalter was recently cited by the borough for having outdoor feeding stations. She spoke out Thursday night against the ordinance.
Buchalter said she never even received so much as a traffic ticket.
When she opened the summons, she said she found out that she was being fined $123.25 for feeding two feral tomcats that she trapped, neutered and released, but who stuck around. She said she’s been feeding the cats for years and that she wasn’t even aware of the ordinance’s existence.
“Technically, I’m guilty of your violation, but I don’t feel that I am guilty. I’m proud of what I did. I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong,” she said.
Susie Yaich, president and co-founder of Carbon County Friends of Animals, and Martha Kahan, president of No Nonsense Neutering, also spoke, making cases for TNR and its potential as a solution to Palmerton’s cat problem.
In defense of the borough’s ordinance, Councilman William Gallagher voiced his own concern about allowing feeding stations, saying that while Thursday’s meeting was full of cat advocates, he’s also been approached by people who don’t want the borough to allow the feeding of feral cats.
“Palmerton’s known as a nice place to live,” Gallagher said. “I believe that allowing feeding stations for feral animals will not be beneficial to the community, contrary to public acceptance, and not in the best interest of the citizens of Palmerton.”
Councilwoman Holly Sell was also hesitant to simply write off the borough’s ban on feeding feral or stray cats.
“I’m hoping to continue the conversation, but that conversation needs to include who’s going to be liable,” Sell said after the meeting.
While no definitive solution was presented during Thursday’s meeting, a promise was made: the borough council, cat advocacy groups and residents will meet to look into finding a means of dealing with Palmerton’s stray or feral cats that works for everyone.
Crum emphasized that she is hoping that every council member would consider revisiting the ordinance.
“I’ll look you in the face and tell you that there is nothing in this town that we can’t fix,” was Palmerton Borough Council President Terry Costenbader’s response.