Feeding stray or feral cats in Panama City could soon be prohibited

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Panama City Commissioners are considering a new law that would prohibit feeding stray or feral cats.

Cutout Photo: Steve-h / CC BY-SA 2.0

The new law is part of Tuesday's Panama City Commission meeting agenda. If passed, it will prohibit dangerous animals such as raccoons, foxes, bats, skunks, and bobcats from being kept as pets.

It also makes it unlawful to feed or entice any of those animals, including stray or feral cats.

"One of the issues that happens when you feed cats is then you're creating a food source and more and more cats are going to keep showing up because you're now a food source for those animals, but it's not just cats that show up, it's other animals, it's raccoons, it's anybody else," Bay County Animal Control Division Manager Kathy Beatson said.

Beatson says the county already has a law in place to help control the stray cat population.

"Bay County has an ordinance that doesn't allow any cats to run free, they have to be contained on a leash just like dogs do. Really what keeps the number of cats out there that high is the spay and neuter aspect of it," Beatson said.

As an alternative to feeding a stray cat, officials with Animal Control say you could bring it to the shelter, where it will be spayed or neutered and adopted out.

"We just sent five over to PetSmart on Friday and I got notice today [Monday] that they got two [adopted]. Pier Park PetSmart called us this morning and we're going to send six cats over there tomorrow, including our friend Oliver here and they can be adopted from that store as well," Beatson said.

If the new law passes, feeding strays could lead to a fine.

Panama City officials are also encouraging residents to secure outside garbage in covered containers to avoid attracting wild animals. They're asking locals to call the Florida Department of Health in Bay County if a wild animal comes in contact with you or your pet.