The Garden Grove City Council has unanimously approved a new law prohibiting citizens from feeding feral animals and implementing a “trap-neuter-return” program.

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The trap-neuter-return process is common practice for many shelters and organizations, allowing them to humanely trap stray cats, neuter them to stop the population from growing, and return them to the wild.

The new measures approved by the City Council in November were prompted after the city received complaints from citizens about wild animals being attracted to the food left out for feral cats. According to City Attorney Omar Sandoval, Garden Grove wants to give citizens time to adjust to the new order, so no penalty is attached to a first warning. After that, the city will give out administrative citations and fines. In the case of repeat offenders, the city will seek criminal prosecutions.

Besides feeding, the new ordinance also covers a new “return to field” program, akin to the trap-neuter-return practice. The city doesn’t want to stop citizens or organizations from trying to help the animals, it wants more accountability for who is participating in the trap-neuter-return program, Sandoval said.

“We’re not prohibiting the program, we’re just requiring individuals and nonprofits to have a permit from the city,” he said.

The city is not planning to charge for the permits; the rule is more for having a way to track who is doing the trapping. Sandoval said the city wants a record, so if someone’s cat goes missing, they can ask the members of the trap-neuter-return program if they have seen it.

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