Roselle Park First In Union County To Have TNR Ordinance

At Thursday night’s Mayor & Council meeting, the governing body unanimously passed Ordinance 2403, “An Ordinance Permitting The Managed Care Of Feral Cats An The Borough Of Roselle Park”,  making Roselle Park the first municipality in Union County to have a Trap-Neuter-Return policy. Records show that Springfield Township has a TNR ordinance but that is the one in Burlington County, not Union County.

The ordinance is a re-work of Ordinance 2397, which was first introduced in February of this year; that ordinance had so many changes, amendments, and deletions made to it that it had to be retired.

Councilman-At-Large Carl Hokanson had been working on the ordinance since last year after a number of feral cats in the Bender Avenue area were noted as dying although, at first, no police were notified of the deaths and only a flier was distributed in the area claiming that someone was killing them.

The debate about how the borough should deal with feral cats was once again public, with those in favor of having a TNR wanting the municipality to reconsider their position of outlawing the feeding of feral cats. TNR is a policy where feral cats are trapped, neutered or spayed, then returned to a feral colony or, if possible, put up for adoption, in order to control the population of cats while humanely dealing with cats who are otherwise euthanized if caught by Animal Control.

The ordinance came to a vote after its rework and two (2) subsequent information sessions held by Councilman Hokanson. Those workshops had representative s from “People For Animals” from Hillside give a presentation and take questions from residents who were in attendance. The first session had over a dozen residents in attendance asking questions and expressing concerns regarding the implementation of a proposed TNR policy. Those both for and against the policy provided input at that meeting. The second meeting had three residents, all in favor of TNR.

During the public hearing, some residents addressed their support while others voiced their opposition and concern.

Union County Magnet High School student Joey Alamo spoke first on the issue, “Why TNR? Because trap, kill, and starving the cats is just plain cruel and an ineffective method in reducing the number of kittens born outside. TNR is a program that educates the public of the importance of spaying and neutering our pets. If a person has a cat or two in their backyard and they feed it, our current practices state that you cannot do so and it is a crime to be compassionate when in reality, the crime is that there is not enough education regarding feral cats and the need to have them spayed and neutered and that our cats and kittens are brought into our shelters to be killed.”

Resident Amy Marie Keller also added her voice of support when she stated, “TNR is the only ethical, human, and responsible solution to the current feral cat situation here in Roselle Park. TNR costs the taxpayer nothing. All TNR work would be done on a volunteer basis. Currently, taxpayers are held responsible for paying Animal Control to transfer any stray cat to Woodbridge [Animal Shelter] which is a kill facility. Residents have mentioned in the past that they are concerned about feral cats transmitting rabies. With TNR, the volunteer caretakers and veterinarians would vaccinate all feral cats for rabies when they’re brought in to be neutered. Neutering these cats will cause a dramatic decrease in the town’s feral population. Not only will reproduction cease, any of the cats who are friendly enough to be adoptable will be adopted by the volunteers.”

Ms. Keller continued by providing advice not covered by the ordinance, “I have also heard about people complaining about not wanting cats in their yard. That’s an easy one to fix. Put coffee grounds or cayenne pepper or even pepper spray at the edges and around the area you don’t want the cats to go to. It’s just that easy to keep them out of your yard. Let’s do the right thing. Vote ‘yes’ to pass the TNR ordinance.”

Carol Langzemi offered an opposing view of the ordinance, “I have great concerns with this ordinance. I don’t want to seem heartless but I think human value to me is more important than any animal. When they say [there’s] no expense to the taxpayer, I’ve already had to remove several shrubs from my property because you can’t get the smell out of them . . . We were also told there are things you can buy to keep them off your property. That’s a cost to a taxpayer. The ordinance, as I see it, has unlimited feeding during daylight hours. That could be up to 12 hours. Would I as a resident or a taxpayer be able to go there and be sure that there is a caregiver? There are so many other things  that Roselle Park needs to address and I don’t want to sound heartless but this is not one that we want to go with. If this is such a great program I don’t know why they don’t have one in Hillside or Rahway or anywhere else in Union County.”

Mrs. Langzemi also asked, “Will there be total transparency as fas as reporting? Will residents be able to see the reports of how many cats have been trapped, neutered, and returned? The kitten population? How many volunteers?”

She stated concluded by stating that in Morristown, which has a TNR ordinance, caretakers are on-call to handle any feral cat related issue and asked if that could be done in Roselle Park. She concluded by asking. “Is there a way of doing a three to six month period for an ordinance?”

Maria Samadjopoulos, a resident who has been one of the main proponents of the ordinance from its inception, provided her input to the issue by saying, “Our current practices have not been effective in reducing our feral cat concerns. It is very important to note that TNR does not bring in cats to our communities and backyards. The cats are already there. TNR is a program that educates the public and allows us to take responsibility in reducing the births outside and the senseless killing our of feral cats . . . There are many compassionate people and they don’t know what to do when they discover a feral cat in their yard. TNR allows the public to have a plan of action . . . The naysayers just want to get rid of the cats and what we are doing is not working.”

Linda Greer commented, “After researching the proposed TNR ordinance 2403 and attending the workshop, I do not feel that this will work. There are no other towns in Union County that have this ordinance. We will be the first. Why do we have to be the first? Shouldn’t we wait around and see if other towns have it and it works? There have been other towns in New Jersey that have had it and didn’t work . . . I feel it is not fair to the citizens of Roselle Park that have to have their pets vaccinated and licensed and limited to how many they can have while these cat colonies will not have to follow any of these rules . . . I also believe that as long as you keep feeding these cats, they and other wild animals will keep coming. At some point it is going to make a bad situation worse. They are not pets. They are wild animals . . . I just don’t feel this is the way to go yet. I’m asking you to consider spending more time reviewing this ordinance before a final vote is taken.”

Ms. Chikako Simone approached the microphone and remarked, “First of all, I would like to thank Councilman Hokanson and the councilmen and councilwoman of Roselle Park for considering Trap Neuter Return. TNR is truly a worthy and conscientious program. My experiences with TNR and feral cats are very limited. My resources are limited but I would like to contribute to the program and to the good will of humanity as much as I can in my capacity.?I have a lot to say but I am very proud of the residents of Roselle Park and I earnestly hope that the town will implement the ordinance of the program.

One point brought up was that the ordinance did not address if there were to be fees associated with registering a feral cat colony but Councilman-At-Large Hokanson stated the fee would be waived due to the expense of neutering and vaccinating the cats.

The vote was unanimous in support of the TNR program, and with that, Roselle Park had two (2) firsts in the county in one evening; one being the TNR ordinance and the other being the first municipality to have a town wide revaluation in over two decades.

After the vote, people on both sides of TNR maturely discussed their differences but both agreed that revisiting the ordinance within six months or a year should be performed to gauge the success or issues with the program.

Jane Guillaume, People For Animals’ Executive Director, which is located in Hillside, was in attendance, having been a presenter at Councilman Hokanson’s information session, said, “I’m thrilled. This is a wonderful victory for Union County, having Roselle Park lead the way. I thought it would pass but having a unanimous decision like that is just fantastic. Roselle Park should be proud of themselves right now.”