Woman fights to care for feral cats

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – A literal cat fight is unfolding in Henrico. The county said one woman is breaking the law by feeding and caring for feral cats near her West End home.

Susan Mills will go before the County Board of Zoning Appeals Thursday. Zoning may sound like an odd place for this case, but the violation notice says caring for feral cats is not permitted on a property zoned for residential use.

It is safe to say Mills loves cats and now she's fighting to save them.

"If there's a cat that's hungry, whether it be a neighbor's cat or a feral cat, I want to feed them," she said. "And if they need spaying or neutering and rabies shots I want that done too."

She's done that for the seven feral cats found outside her home on Laurel Pine Drive, just off Hungary Road. She said she's been caring for homeless felines like these for almost forty years.

Officials told NBC12 they issued the violation notices regarding the feral cats after complaints from neighbors.

One believes Mills treats the animals like pets and therefore is in violation of county ordinances for having too many. Also, she said the cats can be dangerous and are a nuisance because she finds them all over her property.

According to one planning manager, the violation states Mills can only use the property for things that are specifically listed in the residential zoning ordinance. Since caring for feral cats is not on there, it is prohibited.

But the SPCA is coming to Mills' defense and stated the code also provides for exceptions with activities that are "customarily incidental" to living in a house.

"All kinds of things that we do all the time like cutting the grass and having bird feeders are not listed but we all know that they are permitted uses of any sort of residence," explained CEO Robin Starr.

Starr said if Mills loses her appeal, it could set precedent for hundreds or thousands of feral cats being euthanized. The hearing is set for 9 a.m. Thursday at the County Administration Building.

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