As a result of health, public welfare and safety concerns raised by residents, Vandalia City Council passed an ordinance making it illegal to leave food outdoors for animals under certain circumstances. The ordinance, passed as an emergency on Monday, March 20, specifically states, “No person shall knowingly or recklessly leave food or any other type of feed outdoors so as to attract animals running at large or wild animals.” Because it was passed as an emergency measure, the law took full effect as of March 20.
A first violation of the ordinance is a minor misdemeanor. According to David Caldwell, Vandalia prosecutor, a minor misdemeanor is punishable by a fine up to $100.
An individual’s second violation of the ordinance within a 12-month period will be considered a fourth-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $250 and as many as 30 days in jail.
“I think it’s important to understand the motivation behind this ordinance,” said Jon Crusey, Vandalia city manager. “We have heard from a number of citizens who tell us their personal safety and quality of life have been compromised as a direct result of neighbors leaving food out for feral cats.”
Crusey explained that the feed attracts other nuisance animals such as skunks, opossum, raccoons and coyotes.
“We have citizens who feel it is unsafe for them and/or their small children to be in their own backyards because of the influx of other unwanted animals.”
Crusey said Council recently met with a citizen who was bitten by a skunk, subsequently enduring a series of shots to guard against rabies. He noted Council members have also heard from residents who reported coyotes in their back yards.
“This ordinance will be complaint-driven, meaning that the City will rely on those most impacted by reckless feeding to initiate an investigation,” Crusey said. “The affected residents may be asked to work with staff in providing necessary information regarding the violation.”
Vandalia residents who wish to file a complaint should call the Department of Engineering Services, 898-3750. City staff will initiate an investigation and explain the process for prosecution of a violation.
“We hope that those who have been leaving food out now have a better understanding of the impact that feeding can have on their friends and neighbors,” Crusey said. “But we will be ready to investigate any complaints brought to our attention moving forward.”
The new ordinance stipulates that “the feeding outdoors of one’s own animals shall take place during daylight hours only” and, further, makes it a violation for a person to knowingly or recklessly:
1) Leave food or any other type of feed outdoors after daylight hours; or
2) Leave food or any other type of feed outdoors unattended not in the presence of the owner’s animal; or
3) Allow animals running at large or wild animals to feed on one’s own property.
The ordinance makes an exception for the outdoor feeding of birds.
“We understand that many Vandalians use bird feeders, and enjoy watching the birds feed,” Crusey said. “As long as the bird feeders are not attracting animals at large or wild animals, those who enjoy doing so will be able to continue with the ordinance in effect.”