LIHU‘E — A bill prohibiting the feeding of feral cats on County of Kaua‘i-owned property passed out of committee last week, and will appear before the County Council for a final reading in two weeks’ time.
The proposed amendment to the county code also bans cat-abandonment islandwide, and reduces the minimum hold time for cats at the Kaua‘i Humane Society from nine days to five days.
The bill generated debate among councilmembers when an amended version instituting an effective date of Jan. 1, 2023, reached the council’s Parks &Recreation/Transportation Committee on Feb. 23.
Councilmember Felicia Cowden opened the discussion by arguing the feeding ban creates a “significant policy gap.”
“There’s no option for humane removal of feral or community cats from (public) land where bird-nesting sites exist,” Cowden claimed. “So I’ve been working on a concurrent solution with the (state Department of Land and Natural Resources) Division of Forestry and Wildlife and a group called ‘Kaua‘i Animal Welfare Society.’”
An unnamed donor is willing to fund the construction of a feral-cat sanctuary on a 28-acre parcel located in Kapahi, the councilmember said, stating DLNR-DOFAW needs time to “feel confident” in the project.
The site, if built, would cost an estimated $300,000 a year to operate, and would likely require a combination of county, state and private funding, according to Cowden.
“The goal would be a big initial collection of the cats,” she said. “Certainly the people who have the cats in the parks or wherever else, they support this.”
When asked if she wanted to keep Bill No. 2842 in committee rather than send the legislation to the full council for a second reading, Cowden said “yes,” but was “not trying to make a request.”
The council ultimately tabled a broader discussion of the feeding ban and cat sanctuaries for two weeks, which will take place immediately prior to a full council vote on the bill’s second reading.
“Is there anything in this discussion that you think would change our vote on the cat bill or lead to limits on the actual cat bill?” Councilmember Luke Evslin, who co-authored the bill with Council Vice Chair Mason Chock, asked Cowden.
“It would be my hope,” she responded, noting she is working with groups opposed to and in support of the legislation.
“I know that a certain individual, they’re very committed to blocking the effectiveness of this bill,” Cowden continued. “They have lawsuits and things all planned. I said, ‘Hey, maybe you can invest in a solution instead of a fight.’”
Councilmember KipuKai Kuali‘i cited the county’s legal obligations when expressing disinclination to postpone the passage of the cat-feeding ban, which would bring the county into compliance with a commitment made under the Kaua‘i Seabird Habitat Conservation Plan.
Kaua‘i County can be prosecuted and fined up to $50,000 if it falls out of compliance with the plan, according to county attornies.
“I think any concerns about transitioning and giving time for dealing with the cats and moving them is now moot because the effective date is not until Jan. 1,” Kuali‘i said.
Cowden had said the proposed cat sanctuary can probably be built in two to three months.
The Parks &Recreation/Transportation Committee’s roll-call vote saw councilmembers Evslin, Kuali‘i and Billy DeCosta say “aye” to the amended bill.
Cowden said yes, with reservations.
Scott Yunker, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: The Garden Island