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Are there county ordinances concerning out of control numbers of stray cats?

Shannan Bowen
Q. Are there county ordinances concerning out of control numbers of stray cats? If landlords are refusing to trap neighborhood cats, can they be cited. Finally, can tenants who continually feed stray cats be cited. Feeding stray cats only increases the numbers of cats returning for a free meal bringing fleas and ticks.

A. Do you feed stray cats that wander along sidewalks or alleyways?

Did you know that’s violating a county ordinance? Yes, you can be stuck with a $25 citation per stray cat that you feed, said Capt. Kenneth Sarvis of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, which supervises the county’s animal control services.

According to a county ordinance, it is unlawful for any person living in the county to “knowingly and intentionally harbor, feed, keep in possession by confinement, or otherwise, any stray animal which does not belong to him.”

That is, unless a person notifies animal control within 24 hours of intentions to either give the animal to the Animal Control division or advertise the animal in a local newspaper to find the owner in case the animal was missing. If no owner comes forward, the individual holding the stray animal can be declared the legal owner, the ordinance states.

Landlords or property owners are not required to trap stray animals, but it’s unlawful for any owner of a dog, cat or ferret to allow the animal to run off the premises of its owner.


Are pet cats subject to the same animal control rules as dogs, or can they wander the neighborhood?

Are there any free spaying and neutering clinics in the area?


User-contributed question by:
Guigellmo Verde

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15 Responses to “ Are there county ordinances concerning out of control numbers of stray cats?”

  1. On June 16, 2012 at 12:46 am Kurt Benes wrote:

    Heaven forbid you show compassion for a starving/mistreated animal….Shame on all of you cold hearted sub-humans

  2. On June 20, 2012 at 7:45 am Charles Langston wrote:

    Yes, shame on you. Feeding those poor animals that don’t get vaccinated/medicated (heartworm, distemper, RABIES, intestinal worms, mange, etc.) is the humane thing to do.

  3. On June 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm Matthew W wrote:

    I sure hope this ordinance does not apply to wonderful groups such as Friends of Felines who help to take care of Feral Cat Colonies through vaccinating and spaying/neutering the cats and allowing them to live out there lives in peace in a monitored and maintained colony.

    As to the person who submitted this question, you are clearly an uncaring person who is only concerned with themselves and obviously couldn’t care less about the welfare of animals. Maybe you should be more concerned with your own life and stop trying to make trouble for animal lovers who go out of their way to help ease the suffering of stray animals. I pray you don’t live in my apartment complex.

  4. On June 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm Jason wrote:

    I think that whoever posted this question has a valid arguement. People who feed Stray/feral cats are doing a diservice to their neighbors. I know I don’t want a stray cats hanging around my yard, nor stray dogs for that matter. If you feel you want to help these creatures then take them home with you and care for them in your own yard.

  5. On June 25, 2012 at 9:55 am Trandy wrote:

    A representative of Friends of Felines feeds a colony of feral cats in my neighborhood. Apparently, he’s not spaying and neutering them because every year there’s a new batch of kittens. The cats tear up and contaminate the landscaping and the grassy areas where children play. The cats climb on our vehicles and urinate on our vehicles and scratch the paint on our vehicles. Don’t believe the falsehood that Friends of Felines members are spaying and neutering every cat in ever feral colony. And if they’re not doing that, how can we be assured the cats have been properly vaccinated against rabies and other communicable diseases? I have to be careful where I walk my dog, lest he get worms from walking through an area contaminated with cat feces.

  6. On June 25, 2012 at 11:44 am Barbara Lewis wrote:

    Friends of Felines is a great organization. Caring, and in need of donations. I wonder what kind of person in in favor or trap and kill?

  7. On June 25, 2012 at 1:15 pm SLB wrote:

    Laws are subject to interpretation. I feel the one cited in this article is intended to protect ownership of lost pets. How do you interpret Section 5-14 of the NHC code of ordinances that states . . . It shall be unlawful for any person to molest, torture, DEPRIVE OF NECESSARY SUSTENANCE, cruelly beat, needlessly mutilate or kill, wound, injure, poison, abandon or subject to conditions detrimental to its health or general welfare any animal or to cause or procure such action?

    NHC has a feral cat problem that many caring people work tirelessly to control with their own funds. Does any of the money received by the County for fines go back into eradicating the problem?

  8. On June 26, 2012 at 12:01 pm JoE. Needham wrote:

    Thank you to all who came to the rescue of the feral/stray cats. I’m JoE. President of Friends of Felines. If you don’t know about us, please check out our website: http//friendsofelines.org. We are a trap/spay-neuter/vaccinate (rabies & distemper) /return (TNR) program for feral cats. Cats who go through our program “get the works”! They are checked for wounds, fleas, ticks, ear mites and parasites. They are given medication to get rid of anything they have! We do test for FIV/FeLV if a cat looks sick or gravely injured. We also educate caretakers on the importance of proper care for both feral cats and personal pets. We give guidelines to control fleas, ticks and future parasites for your ferals as well as pets.

    The person who initially wrote the article must not be a native or realize the importance of feral/stray cats in our seaside community. Feral cats keep rats, snakes and other rodents away. And if you remember your world history, the worlds plagues started from fleas on rats…. not cats!! Recently, in NY & CA, communities who eradicated the feral cat population were overrun with rats in less than 6 months after the cats were removed. It is a choice… rats or cats!! And don’t be naive thinking it can’t happen in your apartment complex!

    We don’t want any cat to be homeless or have to live outside, we choose the humane treatment of cats (TNR) and killing doesn’t work to get rid of your problem permanently. That’s why we try to help as many people as possible and as many situations as we can. We hope more people will be part of the solution and not the problem! Spay/Neuter your pet. Prevent the births of unwanted kittens (and puppies).

    PS… we will be happy to help the caretaker of the cats in your complex!

  9. On June 26, 2012 at 12:35 pm C. Meyers wrote:

    Heaven forbid we show any compassion, I guess some of the writers feel the same way about homless people.

  10. On June 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm P. Bathurst wrote:

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” Gandhi

  11. On June 26, 2012 at 12:58 pm JoE. Needham wrote:

    To Trandy: This is JoE. with Friends of Felines… again! We do TRY to fix EVERY cat in our colonies. Unfortunately, people leave their cats behind when they move. We have seen more and more of this due to our poor economy. Most, if not all, of these abandoned cats are not fixed prior to being dumped or left behind. It is a frustrating challenge to keep up with all the new cats.

    You will know that a cat has been through our program because we cut off the tip of the left ear.

    Again… BE PART OF THE HUMANE SOLUTION…. VOLUNTEER and help us reduce the overpopulation! HELP the man catch the cats that need to be fixed!! It’s simple!!

  12. On June 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm SH wrote:

    As a long time member of Friends of Felines I would like to say that I have personally trapped, transported for spaying/neutering, and vaccinations hundreds of cats. I have often paid for much of this care out of my own pocket because there are not enough donations to go around. I have seen so much misery and dispair with this work all because other people chose to not alter, vaccinate, or care for their own animals allowing them to breed unchecked and then leave them behind when they quit being cute babies. We VOLUNTEERS can only do so much. If you want to stop over population of feral cats then get involved. We can use the help. People would rather sit back, do nothing and critize those who do try to make a difference. By the way, feral is not stray.

  13. On June 27, 2012 at 9:36 am Kay wrote:

    If it wasn’t for organizations like Friends of Felines who trap, spay/neuter/return our city would be totally out of control with stray cats and then there really would be something to complain about. During the spay/neuter surgery they get Rabies vaccination, flea treatment,ear mite treatment, and any medical problem taken care of. They also have a short life span. FOF does a great job keeping the population down; do appreciate the time and expense and love they give the homeless creatures. It’s all volunteers!

  14. On May 28, 2013 at 10:12 am Lisa Bray wrote:

    If my dogs are not allowed to run free then neither should these cats. They get under the house and do more damage than good. In one area it is just infested with fleas. They come on my property eat my dogs food, crawl over the cars, and spray everywhere. If these cat lovers love them so much take them to your home and stop going on property that does not belong to you and feeding them!!!!!! It doesnt matter if no one is living there you have no right….stay in your own neighborhood!

  15. On August 24, 2013 at 8:29 pm Joey wrote:

    Stray cats are a nuisance here where I live. They “may” be killing rats and snakes, but they are also killing birds and leave their feathers and even bodies laying around. They defecate in my lawn and “spray” on my car. There’s one that sleeps in my car’s wheel well! They also aggravate my dogs and get them agitated, to the point they want to dash out my front door every time it opens to look for them. We are beyond disgusted with these strays. My wife and I are both allergic to them, as is one of our dogs!

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