CAT ORDINANCE BEGINS THIRD LIFE

sb-cat1A trap-spay/neuter-release program could finally get underway in Sea Bright by the end of the year. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It’s been introduced, amended, scrapped, reintroduced, amended and scrapped again. By Councilwoman Dina Long’s calculation, it’s the most revised ordinance she’s seen in her seven years sitting on the borough council.

Could it be that Tuesday night saw the last reintroduction to Sea Bright’s controversial cat ordinance?

“We hope so,” said Long, who has labored for months to get one passed. “We’ll see.”

Long said she has more confidence than ever that the third time’s the charm for this one, because it was co-written by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which was the source of the delays all along.

In order to launch a new program with the Monmouth County SPCA to trap, fix and release the borough’s large population of feral cats, the borough has made a number of revisions to the proposed ordinance to make it copacetic for the feds, Long said.

The service had threatened to fine the borough if it went ahead with the program because, it claimed, releasing cats to the beach, even though they are already living there, threatened the waterfront’s fragile piping plover population.

The council reworked the ordinance to try to avoid fines. The service stepped in again with concerns, but this time decided to work with the borough rather than threaten it.

Under the compromise, only one colony of cats — the one that currently resides at the beach, near the recycling center — may be released in that location; other cats will be placed elsewhere, Long said. The council also added a sunset provision to review the efficacy of the program at the end of 2014.

A final vote, scheduled for November 15, would set the program in motion for the SPCA to begin the herding process. If approved, it will be a phased program, beginning with free tagging of domestic cats with microchips. In the second phase, the SPCA will trap feral cats, give them immunizations, fix and micro-chip them, and then release them back to Sea Bright.

Long said a schedule for the program should be ready by the end of the year, and an OK from the council to move forward would signal an end to six months of wrangling.

“The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the New Jersey Fish & Wildlife Service, although they started out opposing this, they are now cooperating with us,” Long said, “so that’s a huge bonus.”