A Brick woman is circulating an online petition in support of a Stafford Township man arrested for feeding feral cats in Harvey Cedars last month.
Wendy Mitchell wants the small town on the north end of Long Beach Island to drop public nuisance and littering charges against 51-year-old Mark Rist, whom police arrested after investigating his actions for two months.
When Mitchell read of Rist’s arrest in the Asbury Park Press; "I was kind of outraged," she said. “There was no wrongdoing. He was only doing a kind deed.”
Harvey Cedars Police said in a press release that residents on East Cape May Avenue regularly complained about someone dumping 10 pounds of cat food at a time at the end of their street. Borough public works employees had to be called in to clean up the food when it got wet and began to smell, said officials.
Police “put together a timeline pattern” and waited for Rist to appear Dec. 29, according to the release. They arrested him just as he emptied a large bag of cat food just off the beach walkway at 7:35 p.m.
Officials said in the release that Rist’s actions undermined their own efforts to control the feral cat population, claiming the borough has spent more than $5,800 in fees to have trapped cats taken to the local animal shelter. That’s on top of the $3,000 they pay for animal control services, they said.
“Residents are urged not to feed feral cats so that their numbers will decrease,” the press release said. “Some groups have caught and spayed or neutered feral cats and released them. Anyone who feeds these cats may end up being responsible for them."
But Mitchell said the borough wasted resources by going after Rist. If they really cared about bringing down the population, she said, they’d put money into an organized “trap, neuter and release” program. There’s no other way to humanely solve the problem, she said.
“They need to start a TNR program instead of complaining about a man doing a good deed,” Mitchell said. “I understand that it’s a nuisance. But I’d rather see them live there and be cared for than taken to a shelter and put to sleep because they can’t be domesticated.”
Mitchell started an online petition calling for the borough to drop its charges against Rist, and has been promoting it through Facebook. [Click here to read the petition.]
So far, 377 people from around the world have signed, many leaving comments supporting Rist. She said she plans to print out the petition and comments and show up at Rist’s pending court hearing, which will take place on a yet unnamed day in February.
“I’d be more than happy to back the man up,” she said.
As for her hometown, Brick has recently to enact a TNR program in the township.