Thanks to a last-minute intervention by a mediator, a Northeast Baltimore church has agreed to allow cat advocates to continue feeding feral cats on church property.
Because of the agreement, a protest at Northside Baptist Church set for Sunday morning has been canceled.
Volunteers, part of a citywide trap-neuter-return program, have been feeding a colony of cats on the church's lot for two years. But a couple of weeks ago, the church ordered the cat tenders to dismantle the feeding station.
Church officials said the cats not only bother parishioners, they leave droppings all over the otherwise manicured lawn.
Alarmed that the cats might starve, one of the cat feeders, Denise Farmer, picketed the church by herself the past two Sundays. Cat advocates from across Baltimore had planned to join the Parkville chemical engineer on Sunday.
But Alley Cat Allies, a national feline advocacy group based in Bethesda, heard about the dispute and sent a mediator. The church agreed to allow the cats to feed in a more remote part of its grounds. Alley Cat Allies also agreed to give the church decorative stones for its flower beds and some motion-sensor devices that emit a high-pitched noise to repel cats.
"Obviously we all want what is best for the cats - and this agreement will ensure their presence on the ground with volunteers being allowed to feed," said Elizabeth Parowski, spokeswoman for Alley Cat Allies.
Alley Cat Allies also plans to talk to people who live in the neighborhood that surrounds the church, to try to help them get their cats spayed or neutered, and to organizing volunteers to help care for the cats.
Animal control officers estimate about 185,000 feral cats roam Baltimore's streets and back alleys.