“They’re not going to go away if we don’t feed them,” Spay Bay's Terry Cotter said. “They will just roam more looking for food sources."

PANAMA CITY — Local animal activists were pleased when a proposal to ban feeding feral cats in St. Andrews was nixed at Monday’s Panama City Commission meeting.

The commission scratched the unpopular ordinance after people protested before the meeting. Commissioner Mike Nichols said it was clear to him the city needed to start over, crumbling the draft ordinance to applause.

“No one up here wants to stop feeding feral cats,” Commissioner Mike Nichols said. “We do have some issues in the city with some of the feeding that I think we can address.”

Nichols proposed a task force looking into some of the issues, which include people allegedly leaving 10 pound bags of food on private property. He suggested Bay County Animal Control, Spay Bay and individuals who feed the cats be involved.

“We need to figure out what is best overall for the city. I got phone calls on both sides for and against,” he said. We need “to get together to figure how we best serve these little furline animals.”

 

The ordinance was proposed after the commission received complaints from citizens about the local feral cat population. Many people believe the food left for the cats attracts nuisance animals to the city, but animal activists who protested the ban believe starving the animals is not the answer.

 “We’re not happy about (the ordinance) because that means they’re going to go unchecked. No one’s going to be watching the animals and caring for them,” activist Marcia Wiles said before the meeting. “We feel there needs to be volunteers — organized volunteers that maintain the colonies that feed and then pick up the food so that it does not get left for raccoons and opossums and the other types of nuisance animals that these folks are worried about. If it’s managed properly, the problem will take care of itself.”

Besides, animal activist Starr King said, the cat colonies help to control other nuisance species, such as mice and rats.

Terry Cotter, with nonprofit Spay Bay — which already does low-cost spaying and neutering to help control the feral population — echoed Wiles’ point that starving the cats would not reduce their numbers.

“They’re not going to go away if we don’t feed them,” Cotter said. “They will just roam more looking for food sources — which we have many, many in this area because of our tourist-based industry.”

Unchecked, however, feral cats will breed prolifically.

“In 10 years' time, if you take two cats, a male and a female and all of their litters, they can produce 420,000 cats,” King said.

If passed, the ordinance would have made feeding stray civil infraction punishable by a fine of $50 for the first offense, $75 for the second offense and $100 for the third offense, according to city codes.

The commission said they would revisit the issue after hearing from the task force.