Countless times our supporters have shown that they value the lives of feral cats, and members of our community have stood up to protect the lives of these defenseless animals. In Henrico County there is a case that threatens not only the lives of feral cats but also the rights of a citizen to care for them. We ask compassionate members of our community to take a stand and attend a hearing before the Henrico County Board of Zoning Appeals this Thursday. The citizen who is appearing before the board is Susan Mills, who cares for a small colony of feral cats. Ms. Mills has been repeatedly targeted by the Department of Community Revitalization since early this spring. The Richmond SPCA has been actively supporting Ms. Mills throughout her defense.
On Thursday morning, Sept. 22 at 9 a.m., Ms. Mills will go before the Board of Zoning Appeals to appeal a violation issued on July 7, 2011. The notice of violation cites 24-6 and states that caring for feral cats in an R-4 district is not a permitted use. Ms. Mills will argue on Thursday, with my help and support, that caring for companion animals is customarily incidental to a dwelling and therefore the county is applying an erroneous principal of law in issuing this citation.
The case goes back to March 21, 2011, when Ms. Mills received a notice of violation from the County of Henrico’s Department of Community Revitalization citing her for keeping more than three adult pets, requiring a conditional use permit. While Ms. Mills does not have more than three pets in her home, she has performed Trap-Neuter-Return for a small colony of seven feral cats for whom she continues to put out food on her property. Our Smoky’s Spay/Neuter Clinic has spayed or neutered and rabies vaccinated the colony members for Ms. Mills. After receiving the notice of violation in March, Ms. Mills applied for the conditional use permit with help from the Richmond SPCA, and her application went before the Board of Zoning Appeals for consideration on May 26, 2011. At that meeting, members decided to continue the application until the board’s next meeting in order to obtain additional information.
On June 23, 2011, the Board of Zoning Appeals ruled that it did not have jurisdiction over the matter and that Susan Mills should never have been asked to apply for such a permit. Furthermore, the board’s position was stated that one may not “keep” feral cats since their nature makes them insusceptible of being kept. Ms. Mills considered this ruling a victory, and it was featured on our blog on June 24.
However, only two weeks had passed before the county issued Ms. Mills a new notice of violation on July 7. She is not the only person who has received this citation. We know of at least one other caretaker who volunteers to perform Trap-Neuter-Return and feed feral cats. It appears that the County of Henrico is maliciously targeting those who engage in TNR. This is a clear example of the government overextending their authority to intervene in citizens’ personal lives and actions. They are challenging a person’s ability to put bowls of food outside their homes to feed companion or other animals.
We are encouraging our constituents and advocates for feral cats to attend this Board of Zoning Appeals meeting in order to show their support for Ms. Mills and feral cat colony caretakers community wide. I would be most grateful to you for attending this meeting on Thursday morning. The public hearing will be held in the Board Room of the County Administration Building at 4301 E. Parham Road in Henrico. Please help us save the lives of innocent feral cats in Henrico County.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.
Sept. 22, 2011: Update on effort against feral cats in Henrico County
Oct. 14, 2011: Companion animals need your support in Henrico County on Oct. 20
Feral cat resources for caretakers
Feral cat resources for businesses and residents