Supporters of a law governing the care of feral cats in Cook County hope that a recent court case involving a Mount Prospect feral cat colony will serve as an important precedent.
A Cook County judge ruled late last month in favor of a Mount Prospect couple who had been cited by the village for caring for feral cats. The couple, Gerry and Janice Stone, cared for the cats as outlined in a Cook County law designed to decrease the feral cat population in a humane manner.
The county's 2007 feral-cat law allows residents to feed and care for feral cats as long as the animals are vaccinated, spayed/neutered and then fitted with an identifying microchip.
Supporters say this process ensures that the cats will die off without reproducing.
"I do hope that this case will stop other villages from suing residents who care for these cats properly," said Serena Fried, president of Wheeling-based Feral Feline Project, a group that helps track, spay and neuter feral cats in the suburbs. "This could be a great precedent."
The village, which got involved after getting complaints about the cats from the Stones' neighbors, argued that the cats are strays and the village therefore has the authority to regulate them.
The judge ruled, though, that the cats are wild animals, which come under state authority.
The judge also stated the Stones are immune from prosecution because they are participating in a county program designed to help control the larger feral-cat population, said Patrick Somers, the Stones' attorney.
Mount Prospect Village Manager Michael Janonis said Thursday that the village disagrees with the ruling but does not plan to appeal it.
"We went through the county program down the line," Gerry Stone, a 34-year resident, said. "We wanted to make sure we did this right."
Mount Prospect isn't the only community to try to outlaw feral-cat colonies. South suburban Bridgeview in 2009 banned the care of feral cats within village limits. Cook County sued that village, and in June of this year, a judge ruled in the county's favor.
"These cases should send a message," Fried said. "We hope local communities now give the 'trap-neuter-return' program time to work."
For more information on the Feral Feline Project's work, go to feralfelineproject.org.