Thursday, July 1, 2010

Kitty conundrum: Rockaway cat feeder cited for littering

By Jane Northrop
Updated: 07/01/2010 06:20:21 AM PDT

After feeding feral cats in Rockaway for more than 30 years, Nancy Morrison recently received two expensive littering citations from the Pacifica Police Department for feeding in the business parking lot.

The first one, received in December, will cost her $542 and the second one, issued six weeks ago, is expected to cost even more. Morrison, who works in the San Mateo court system as the family court mediator, is fighting the citations. The trial is set for Sept. 8.

"This is not littering. The litter is the television set that is abandoned on the parking lot, the trash, the stuff I pick up from people who are being careless," she said. "I'm pleading not guilty. My attorney and I don't agree with the city's definition of litter."

Two new signs recently popped up in two locations in the public parking lot in Rockaway that read it is illegal to put out food for animals. The signs were posted by Department of Public Works personnel after city officials specifically interpreted placing food, plates or pet food cans on the ground defined littering under the municipal code. That determination was reached last year after neighbors complained about some of the locations where Morrison was feeding the cats, specifically on either end of the Rockaway business parking lot.

Cpt. Dave Bertini of the Pacifica Police Department issued the citations. The original complaint came from a neighbor, Jack Sawyer, a resident of Old County Road, as well as others. They objected to feeding the cats so close to Sawyer's apartment building and other places close to homes and businesses. They sought support from city officials to change Morrison's feeding locations. They said the food attracted other wildlife and the feeders allegedly left a mess. They believed the feeding was leading to an increase in the cat population, not a decrease.

"One resident and other neighbors who signed a petition were very upset about several people feeding cats because of the litter — paper plates, cat food, human food scraps and cat food cans — in five of six locations. It was attracting wild animals. People were starting to dump their cats here because people were feeding them. What they are doing is technically illegal. The municipal code is explicit that this is littering once it is put on the ground. This is public property and private property that is open to the public," Bertini said.

Morrison and Bertini met twice over the last two years with the city manager, the city's code enforcement officer, representatives from the Peninsula Humane Society, representations of the North Coast County Water District (because some of the cats were being fed on NCCWD land) and representatives from cat rescue agencies. Sawyer attended one of those meetings.

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Submitted by Jim Alex

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