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Feral-cat bill moves at county council; prohibits feeding, abandonment

LIHU‘E — A cat-centric county bill that would tighten up compliance with seabird-protection mandates passed first reading before the County Council Wednesday.

The new legislation would shorten hold times for microchipped felines at the Kaua‘i Humane Society, prohibit abandonment of cats islandwide, prohibit feeding of cats on county property and retool the county code’s definition of cat ownership for clarity.

“Kaua‘i is the last refuge for a number of native birds, and cats have certainly had a devastating impact on all of these populations,” Councilmember Luke Evslin, who introduced the bill alongside Council Vice Chair Mason Chock, said. “It’s also our legal responsibility … under the Kaua‘i Seabird Habitat Conservation Plan, to reduce cat populations on county property.”

The KSHCP charts a course for the county to offset the incidental take of endangered species — which include the Newell’s shearwater and the Hawaiian petrel — that can become disoriented and grounded by artificial lighting operated at night.

Since the county cannot eliminate its take entirely, it must focus on minimizing fallout-stricken birds’ mortality rate, according to First Deputy County Attorney Mahealani Krafft.

“They can’t retake flight, so they become subject to predation,” Krafft told the council.

Under the habitat-conservation plan, the county must reduce the presence of predators at its facilities, in part by banning the feeding of roaming cats and dogs.

The KSHCP does not require the prohibition on cat abandonment put forward in Evslin and Chock’s bill. But the proposal is intended to make it easier for the county to comply with other predator-control obligations.

“If there’s less predators to start off with, there’s less predators to remove,” Krafft said. “It presumably will reduce the predation and increase the likelihood of discovering grounded seabirds.”

Enforcement of these measures would be carried out by park rangers, according to William Trujillo of the county Department of Parks & Recreation (Director Pat Porter was absent at Wednesday’s council meeting due to emergency-response work in Waimea).

Councilmembers received 115 pages of written testimony prior to the bill’s reading. All but one expressed support of the legislation, which passed first reading and is subject to a public hearing on Feb. 9.

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Scott Yunker, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or syunker@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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