Since the 1960’s and before, the cats of Seaside Heights, who are also a major tourist attraction, have lived in peace with businesses and residents. People have been feeding the cats under the boardwalk for dozens of years… but that’s all changing. The cats are being kicked out of their homes.
A recently introduced ordinance would impose new regulations on cat owners and restructures how the borough deals with the existing feral population. So far a group called Seaside Heights Animal Welfare Organization has been managing the Trap Neuter Release program in that area and the program seemed to be working effectively. Over 300 cats were spayed and neutered, not to mention an additional 80+ kittens were put into foster and rescue and found homes. If you do the math at least 1600 births have been prevented due to the efforts of the Seaside Animal Welfare Organization. The rescue organization has been spaying, neutering and feeding the stray cats at their own cost. They have not been charging the town, city or tax payers to do this… not one red cent.
Animal control will now take over the TNR efforts instead. The new program is also going to limit the size of the existing cat colonies and ship some of the cats off to cat rescues, sanctuaries and city shelters. However, according to Seaside Animal Welfare, the city has no deals in place with any sanctuaries or rescues at this time, and if you know anything about a feral cat in a city shelter, you know they don’t have a good chance of being socialized or adopted. It’s a death sentence. It basically sounds like they are going to round up these cats and kill them. Let’s hope that’s not the case.
I spoke to Seaside Heights Animal Welfare and they explained that they are not comfortable with the way the new ordinance is written. “There are a hundred plus towns in New Jersey that have TNR programs that are much less stringent than this one that is proposed.”
The new ordinance would force people to register cat colonies and we’ve seen people physically threatened and beaten for feeding stray cats in the news. Seaside Heights Animal Welfare went on to say, “Like a woman said at the meeting last night, people will be hesitant to register their colonies because of retaliation and harassment. It also seems to give the animal control officer the right to trap stray cats and transport them to the Ocean County animal shelter. Feral cats are euthanized at shelters because there really is no chance at socialization.”
A petition with 12,700 signatures was basically ignored because many of the signatures were from people who did not live in Seaside. However a lot of these people do use Seaside as a second home or a vacation spot. Without these people visiting there wouldn’t be much of a Seaside. Why don’t their opinions matter? According to Seaside Heights Animal Welfare Organization, when questioned, mayor Anthony Vaz told a Seaside Heights Animal Welfare supporter, “I don’t care how many people signed the petition. They mean nothing to me.”
Whatever happens, we hope they do the right thing and don’t euthanize these cats. Let the local officials know what you think of their new plan.