County board bars woman from feeding feral cats

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A Henrico woman is upset after the county told her she could no longer feed several feral cats outside her house. The Zoning Board of Appeals says she violated the county's policy by taking care of too many feral cats.

Dozens of people came out to the meeting to support Susan Mills, but the outcome was not what she had hoped for. After nearly three hours the appeals board voted not to allow Mills to continue feeding feral cats outside her Laurel Avenue home.

"It's terrible," said Mills. "I've lived in that house 37 years and I have fed animals on-and-off so I just don't know what I'm going to do."

This comes after the last hearing in May; the county cited Mills with several pet violations. She can't have more than three adult pets, but she's been feeding seven feral cats. This time around, the room was packed with supporters as well as opponents who said Mills' practice was dangerous. They fear disease, attacks, and an overall annoyance to the area.

"This has become a nuisance," said neighbor Charmain Jenkins. "This is directly affecting our neighborhood."

Mills says her cat colony won't harm anyone. She believes it's an established group that will not attract other ferals, another concern among neighbors. Mills claims she had the cats spayed, neutered and vaccinated, a practice the SPCA encourages.

"We are shocked and horrified. Susan is a hero," said SPCA Chief Executive Officer Robin Starr. "To take the step to prevent people in the county from caring for animals is brutal and it's ignorant."

Board members say they respond to calls based on complaints, many of which came from Mills' neighborhood.

"I think they are wrong," said Mills. "On your property you should be able to feed anything that comes on your property."

Board members voted 4-1 to deny her appeal to keep feeding those feral cats. The only person who voted against the appeal was Vice Chairman Robert Witte. We asked Mills what she's going to do about the feral cats she feeds, she did not want to comment at the time.

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