Could 2023 offer an open season on feral cats in Licking County? At least one candidate for county commissioner thinks it should be explored.
During a forum Monday evening at Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County, candidates for county commissioner were asked what they thought should be done about the feral cat problem plaguing many area communities.
One group working to spay and neuter the animals said there are 130 active feral cat colonies across the county.
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Prosecutor Bill Hayes, who is running for commissioner in the Republican primary, proposed a more aggressive approach to dealing with the animals.
“This won’t be very popular. We have a squirrel season, various seasons. It would seem to me if you’ve got an animal that’s not a pet for anybody, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to make the situation better.
“A feral cat season if you need to. You gotta do what you gotta do,” said Hayes, who previously served in the state legislature.
Commissioner Rick Black, also a Republican, said the county animal shelter takes dogs, but the law does not require taking in cats.
“We have plenty of dogs to take look after,” Black said. “I support getting the spay and neuter program going as much as we can, People got to take some personal responsibility for these animals.”
Ohio Revised Code 959.131 defines a companion animal as “any animal that is kept inside a residential dwelling and any dog or cat regardless of where it is kept.”
It further states that: “No person shall knowingly torture, torment, needlessly mutilate or maim, cruelly beat, poison, needlessly kill, or commit an act of cruelty against a companion animal.”
Discussion of the feral cat problem brought laughter from the audience when Democrat candidate Gail Herold responded to Hayes’ solution of having a hunting season for cats, like squirrels.
“I don’t think we should have open game season on them,” Herold said. “I don’t really have a good answer to that. Cats serve a purpose and I’d like to see more of the farmers take them in.”
Democrat candidate DeVeonne Gregory said the commissioners can’t solve every problem by themselves.
“We’re not an expert in that area, as county commissioners, but collaboration and reaching out to the experts — animal control,” Gregory said. “Taking ideas from them. Reach out to the agencies responsible for that.”