Winter Park considers issuing fines to people who feed feral cats

WINTER PARK, Fla. — City leaders in Winter Park want to get a handle on the number of animals roaming the streets and parks.

The city said the biggest problem is at Mead Botanical Garden.

Nearby resident Elizabeth Swanson said her health is at risk when it comes to animals roaming around her Winter Park neighborhood.

“I wouldn’t want to mingle with them. There are diseases and stuff,” she said.

Leaders have put forth a proposal that would enforce a fine on anyone who leaves a pet in any city park.

The first offense would be $50, the second $100 and after that, a violator would have to have a mandatory court appearance.

“If it’s your animal, I believe you should keep it or give it to a shelter,” said resident Catherine Barolet.

The proposal focused on Mead Botanical Garden.

The city said there are at least 30 feral cats in the park, and leaders think the only way to stop people from feeding them is to issue fines.

“I think it’s a little petty. I don’t think they’re hurting anyone,” Barolet said.

The city released a statement saying, in part, “The purpose of this ordinance is to discourage people from abandoning pets in our parks and also to not feed the feral cats as it is affecting the natural wildlife of Mead Botanical Gardens.”

Leaders have not proposed a city-wide policy for the feral cat problem, although it’s been discussed.