Warned that coyotes are increasingly approaching homes, sometimes leaving with cats in their mouths, the City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday barring the feeding of wildlife.
Deputy Police Chief James Spreine said a North Laguna resident found a coyote on her porch, gazing through the screen door to the living room--and at her small child. "She said she stamped her feet and yelled and screamed, but this coyote held its ground," he said. "They're becoming much more brazen. They're standing their ground. They're moving about in daytime hours."
To head off what Mayor Robert F. Gentry called "potential disastrous situations," the council voted, 4-0, for an ordinance that would outlaw feeding of wild animals such as coyotes, raccoons, foxes, skunks and opossums.
Synthia Scofield, a member of Rescuing Unwanted Furry Friends, a volunteer group that helps the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter, said that 35 cats were reported missing in February and that the disappearance rate is expected to increase in the spring as coyote pups are born and their mothers get more aggressive about finding ways to feed them.
"When people call us, we tell them time and time again, please keep your cat indoors, don't feed them outdoors," she said, but often the warnings are ignored. Sometimes small dogs such as Yorkshire terriers are also taken by coyotes.
Scofield said the animal shelter supports the ordinance. Animal control officer Joy Lingenfelter said the problem has become increasingly worse in the past year. In some neighborhoods--notably Top of the World, Arch Beach Heights and North Laguna--dozens of cat skeletons and collars have been found.
"There have been a lot of sightings of coyotes with a cat in their mouth," she said.
Not everyone approved of the new law Tuesday. John Gabriels agreed that an ordinance would be an overreaction to the problem. "This sounds as though we're in Africa or something," he said. "You're blaming all this on coyotes, and I don't think any of you even know what a coyote looks like."
Offenders will will be warned first, then cited if they do not comply, Lingenfelter said.
The ordinance will not apply to people who have a permit to keep a non-domesticated animal or to those who provide food or water to a trapped or injured animal until animal service workers pick it up.