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Letter: Reconsider code change for cats

The Maryland Ornithological Society objects to the Hampstead Town Council's recent change to the town code that allows the feeding of free-roaming cats within the town limits, as stated by Timothy Sandoval in his front page article on Jan. 19.

Many of the members of the Maryland Ornithological Society, especially those of the Carroll County Bird Club, live in or visit the Hampstead area regularly and enjoy the birds and other wildlife. Several of our members own and care for cats.

The Society believes the Hampstead Town Council has adopted irresponsible public policy that ignores scientific research regarding feral cat colonies. Recent studies published by the American Bird Conservancy, Avian Conservation and Ecology, and Journal of Ornithology have shown free-roaming cats to be a major human-generated cause of mortality to birds in both the U.S. and Canada.

Furthermore, re-releasing feral cats into the wild can be detrimental to the health of cats themselves, where they are subject to the weather, predators, automobiles, parasites and disease.

Studies such as one published in Conservation Biology have shown trap-neuter-release programs to be ineffective in lowering cat numbers. TNR colonies artificially and irresponsibly concentrate large numbers of cats in a small geographic area with devastating effects on local birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

The willful abandonment of a domestic animal is also a violation of Maryland state law, Code 10-604.

Lastly, recent studies published by Centers for Disease Control and Trends in Parasitology have shown Toxoplamsa gondii oocysts, which are spread by cat feces, to be a major public health threat. We ask the Hampstead Town Council to reconsider this code change and, instead, rely on sound science for future policy decisions regarding feral cats.

Maureen F. Harvey

Sykesville

The writer is President of the Maryland Ornithological Society.

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