Cats (and Other Animals) Still Disturbing Baldwin Township
'We're just gonna have to think of something to do, or we're going to be overrun.' - resident Debra Brewer
If someone feeds a stray cat in Baldwin Township, but no one else is around to witness it, does it really happen? How about a deer?
Township officials have made it clear that feeding wild animals—including stray cats, deer and other critters—is not to be encouraged in Baldwin, but those same officials have been reluctant to pass an official ordinance against that practice for fear that it would pit neighbor versus neighbor in court.
"If we were to enact an ordinance banning the feeding of stray cats, that becomes a neighbor-against-neighbor type of situation," township commissioner Nick Pellegrino said at a board meeting on Aug. 7. "You would have to report a neighbor for feeding the cats and violating the ordinance, and when they get a ticket, if they appeal it, you would then have to show up at the magistrate's office to be the witness against them.
"There could be good coming out of an ordinance like that, and there could be the issue of now having a neighborly dispute, a contentious relationship, whatever you want to call it."
Pellegrino's inexact position on the matter, one shared by other township officials, has been a hard pill to swallow for the township residents who are fed up with smelly yards, cat fur and dangerous street and walkway crossings.
"We're just gonna have to think of something to do, or we're going to be overrun," said Debra Brewer of Highview Road at another township meeting on Tuesday night. "It's not going to be safe for kids to play." Brewer was referring to both cats and deer running around in the township.
Brewer said that an unknown man has been dumping apples down a hill into Armstrong Park every day, encouraging deer to come out of the woods to eat them. And she said that similar actions by neighbors leaving food outside for stray cats have contributed to an increase in the township's overall animal population.
Said Gary Moeller, also of Highview, on Tuesday night, "There's deer coming into my yard, eating my shrubbery up, defecating in my yard. They're multiplying tremendously around the township."
Commissioner Bob Downey wondered aloud about some nearby municipalities and their practice of conducting controlled bowhunting to limit deer populations. But Downey also recognized that such hunts can be dangerous.
A coalition of local animal rights advocates and experts came to a Baldwin Township meeting on June 25 to present details of a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program aimed at controlling Baldwin's stray cat population, but township officials have not accepted that group's plan.
The TNR program would involve volunteers placing feeding stations around the township to trap loose cats, and that aspect of the program is what concerns township officials, Downey said in an interview after a July 3 township meeting.
Downey said that the prime space for stray cats in Baldwin Township is a wooded area at the end of Donaldson Drive, but that area is actually in Mt. Lebanon. And anyone wishing to place a feeding station in Mt. Lebanon cannot get permission to do so from Baldwin officials.
Furthermore, Downey said, township officials cannot prevent property owners from placing feeding stations on their private properties, so permission from the commissioners would not mean anything in that regard.
"That's their business," Downey said. "We have no ordinance that would preclude them from doing it."
Pellegrino said on Tuesday that township administration will provide cages to township residents to trap animals on their property if they want to. The cages are available at the municipal building on Community Park Drive (adjacent to Armstrong Park).
The cages may not be big enough to trap adult deer, however.
Jean Colaizzi, another Highview resident, does not believe that a TNR program would lessen the township's cat population enough.
Said Colaizzi at the Aug. 7 meeting, "Why can't they just get euthanized? That would be the best thing; wouldn't it?"
Colaizzi said that she is frustrated by how cats have affected her property.
"I have about a dozen cats that are in my backyard, crapping in my yard, in my flowers, in my vegetables. It stinks so bad in my backyard that I cannot sit out there and enjoy the summer evenings."
She also expressed worry that some of the cats may be carrying diseases.
"Currently, right now, we don't have any ordinances on the books (limiting the feeding of wild animals)," Downey said, "but we're exploring that option."
Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch later on Wednesday for more from Tuesday night's board meeting.
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