A tight city budget has, for now, derailed a resolution to help a local organization spay, neuter and vaccinate New Haven’s feral cat population.
The Board of Aldermen on Wednesday heard a presentation from Greater New Haven Cat Project President Cheryl Defilippo describing the nature of the feral-cat problem in the city. She asked the board to allocate an annual $5,500 to support the group’s work, but alderman — citing uncertainty about where that much money would come from and whether it constitutes a top priority at this time — voted down the resolution, 6 to 1.
Defilippo told the committee her group has been controlling cat overpopulation since 2000 and that it expects to spay, neuter and vaccinate at least 75 cats over the next year. The organization receives about 40 calls for assistance with feral cats from city residents each week, she said.
Unlike with stray dogs, she said, the city’s animal control is not required by state law to respond to reports of feral cats, and the animal control often refers people to the Cat Project.
“We want to get New Haven to recognize there is a problem and get onboard with organizations such as ours to deal humanely with cat overpopulation,” she said. “[The program] not only promotes respect to animals, but it also protects public safety. By controlling the cat population, we are controlling transmission against viruses and diseases … and preventing instances of [cat] fighting.”
Defilippo said the organization gets cheaper rates at animal clinics outside of New Haven, but Ward 25 Ina Silverman said she thinks that if the city were to support the Cat Project, the organization should bring back most of its business to the city.
But for now, the issue is a non-issue, as alderman unanimously agreed that the committee could not approve such a request without knowing where the money would come from.
Well, almost unanimously.
“What can I say? I’m a cat lover,” said Ward 23 Alderman and Finance Committee Chair Yusuf Shah, who voted for the resolution, despite acknowledging the financial problems, as a way of expressing his love of the animal.
“I’m looking for a Siamese cat right now,” he said. “I know there are cat issues in New Haven, and they can become a public-safety issue if it gets out of control, but it’s a tight budget.”
He said after the meeting that he would contact Defilippo to suggest possible ways of bringing back the resolution in a form in which it might be passed.
The meeting agenda had also included two items addressing the salaries of the mayor and the city clerk, but Shah said those items were delayed to give City Hall more time to prepare.
“I don’t think the administration was ready to address it at this time,” he said.
The committee also approved a resolution to form a committee to write legislation allowing the city to recover pensions from employees who commit felonies — such as money laundering and bribery — on the job.
A similar bill was expected to pass at the state level in Hartford on Wednesday, but a compromise on the bill — which is supported by the Gov. M. Jodi Rell — fell apart, The Associated Press reported.
Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez said the city could model its bill off the state one. He said the issue was being considered as an ordinance rather than as part of the collective-bargaining process because the city should not have to provide anything in return.
“It should not be negotiable whether you can commit a crime on [the city’s] time,” he said, adding that the bill also applied to all employees, including elected ones — not just those covered by collective-bargaining agreements.