Phoenix Approves Animal Hoarding Ordinance

Published: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 7:04pm
Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 8:56am
Animal Defense League of Arizona
Feral cats.

By a vote of 7-1, Phoenix City Council members approved an ordinance making it a misdemeanor for someone to maintain 10 or more animals without appropriate food, water and medical care — with one exception.

“I want to make very clear because there’s been questions if this would include managed or outdoor feral cats, and I want it on the record it does not include them, they are excluded,” said Councilwoman Thelda Williams.

Stephanie Nichols-Young with the Animal Defense League of Arizona expressed concern over the proposed language, specifically the definition of “feral cat.” Her group works with residents and community groups to spay and neuter free-roaming, outdoor cats.

“Many of the outdoor cats we have living in Phoenix are not feral, especially since the foreclosure crisis of 2008,” she told council members.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio suggested Nichols-Young work with city staff on the language during the meeting. After a short break, Councilwoman Williams introduced an amendment that excludes feral cats using language that the city’s legal team and Nichols-Young agreed on. 

The amendment defines a feral cat as “a cat this is not domesticated or has become wild, or is a free-roaming cat.”

The ordinance makes animal hoarding a Class 1 misdemeanor. A guilty conviction requires the judge to order a mental health evaluation and restitution to cover the cost of the animals’ care. A judge could also ban the defendant from owning animals.The ordinance will take effect in 30 days.

The only no vote came from Councilman Jim Waring who wanted to continue the issue for a couple weeks.

“To do this on the fly like this makes me nervous,” he said. “I don’t want to vote no on this. I was going to vote yes, assuming that these kinds of things have been worked out, but clearly that was not the case. To do it in this fashion makes me uncomfortable, given my prior experiences.”