New law passes to help protect cats in Manatee County
BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) - Cats in Manatee County neighborhoods now have some legal protection, thanks to the County Commission.
On Tuesday, commissioners approved a new ordinance that prevents the killing of feral cats. The changes are a result of a Manatee County woman’s loss and efforts to save other cats from the same fate.
Melody Sweetman Carpenter takes care of the cats in her Bradenton neighborhood. To her surprise, one year ago, one of her favorite furry friends, Lucee, went missing.
“We had four kitten who were at my house and two were a couple of houses down the road,” she said. “We had been taking care of them for about year and half. We had them trapped and neutered and then returned. We had their rabies vaccinations.”
“One of the neighbors decided she didn’t want one of the cats in her yard,” said Carpenter. “So, she took it upon herself to have a professional trapper and removed.”
Carpenter never saw Lucee again. She was devastated.
She reached out to local law enforcement but was told what happened was completely legal.
“She called me and said by law, the neighbor was able to do that,” said Carpenter. “Anybody can do that. If a cat gets in your yard and you don’t want it in your yard, you can call and get it removed. It can be euthanized. Or, they can remove it to another place. They can pretty much do what they want with it, as long as it is done humanely.”
When Carpenter learned that wasn’t the case with other animals, she knew something had to be done.
“If a bat, various birds, deer or bobcat gets on your property, you are not allowed to trap those,” said Carpenter. “But, you are allowed to trap these cats.”
For the past year, she has been contacting local and state lawmakers and working with Manatee County Animal Services.
Her hard work paid off.
“We made some changes to the ordinances,” said Sarah Brown, division chief with Manatee County Animal Services. “Now if you trap a cat, you can only trap it for the purpose of trap, neuter and return. You can bring them to your local humane society or animal services. We’ll make sure they get a rabies vaccine; an ear tip and they will be sterilized. Really, the only way to reduce that population is sterilization of the cat.”
Brown said now that the ordinance is passed, they’ll be working to educate the community.
“We are going to do our part to educate pest control companies and trappers to make sure we are keeping cats in our community safe and to make sure everyone is in compliance of our ordinance,” said Brown.
The new ordinance is named in honor of Lucee, the cat who was taken from Carpenter’s neighborhood.
It stands for “Let’s Unite Cats Everywhere Endlessly.”
“Animals don’t have a voice and now we are their voice,” said Carpenter. “It takes a village and now I feel like we are getting the village together.” If anyone violates this new law, they will receive a minimum of a $500 fine.
Manatee County Animal Services is now taking donation to help feral cats.