Warwick citizens now face up to $500 fine for feeding wild animals

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The third try was the charm for a legislative amendment to the city’s wild animal feeding ordinance that will saddle repeat offenders with an up to $500 fine. The amendment was unanimously passed by the Warwick City Council during Monday night’s meeting.

Citing numerous complaints from neighbors about their properties being beset by rats, skunks, possums, squirrels and other animals, Ward 2 Councilman Jeremy Rix has been championing the change since last October, when he introduced a much broader, less specific amendment that drew concerns about its vague language.

The amendment that was voted unanimously through the ordinance committee and was passed officially by the council during the public meeting was much more targeted and much more detailed, which was fitting considering there was hours of public input and concerns that helped craft the finalized version.

The ordinance change will make it a civil offense for residents to feed wild animals through the direct throwing of food items on the ground. First offenses will be dealt with via a warning. A second offense, if within the same year as the first offense, will net a fine up to $250 as determined by the municipal court judge. A third offense in the same year will result in a minimum fine of $50 and a maximum fine of $500.

As many residents enjoy putting out feeders for birds and other animals, the ordinance change includes some important exceptions.

Citizens will not be in danger of receiving a fine if they do so via an elevated bird feeder that is located within 100 feet of their home, and as long as they do so in a way that “doesn't create a nuisance for surrounding property owners; and is not an attractant for rats, skunks, foxes, weasels or coyotes.” Hummingbird feeders are specifically allowed in the ordinance language, as is food that is produced outside through “normal gardening practices.”

An important point of the ordinance to highlight is that it prohibits residents from purposefully or accidentally leaving or storing food outside of their homes, and that includes any “refuse, garbage, food product, pet food, forage product, or supplement salt, seed or birdseed, fruit, or grain in a manner that would constitute an attractant to any wild animal.”

The purpose for the ordinance change remains the same – to prevent wanton and/or oblivious acts of feeding animals that result in unwanted and potentially dangerous nuisances.

One resident from the Norwood neighborhood described the situation he has been dealing with, where his neighbor has been throwing large quantities of birdseed on her property, resulting in large quantities of rats taking up residence around his property.

“I found a dead rat in my kid's playhouse,” he said. “I’m glad I found it because if they found it, they probably would have started playing with it. They’re absolutely everywhere.”

Well known resident and activist Rob Cote spoke up during public comments as well, claiming to have lost thousands of dollars’ worth of destroyed Oriental lilies and captured over 200 squirrels, 60 possums, 32 skunks, eight groundhogs and four raccoons as a result of his neighbor also sprinkling bird seed on the ground.

Others, like Barbara Walsh, contend as they have in the past that this ordinance is an unnecessary, potentially slippery slope that would be better left to neighbors figuring out their own issues with each other.

“Fining them may or may not do the trick. Having people qualified to talk to them may do the trick,” she said. “I worry about unintended consequences…When you make things legal with neighbors against neighbors, it’s not going to solve the problem.”

Members of the city council, however, were satisfied that residents’ had been heard and ultimately agreed to pass the ordinance change.

“We researched several other communities in the region to make sure we had language that worked, because some had some language that did not work out,” said Ward 8 Councilman Anthony Sinapi. “This was a far better outcome without overreaching.”

In regard to the voices still opposed to the ordinance after all of its crafting and re-calibration, Rix summed things up nicely prior to a vote from the ordinance committee.

“You can’t always please everyone all the time,” he said.

The law will be upheld by the Warwick Police Department, who Rix has said in the past are well trained in de-escalation and managing disputes between neighbors. The hope, he has said, is that the threat of a fine will cause more people to think about the unintended consequences of what they believe to be innocuous actions.

Comments

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davebarry

People who throw bird seed on the ground are just rude, selfish, inconsiderate people. Attracting rats/mice that bother your neighbors is awful. Buy a bird feeder and get one that is squirrel proof so that you aren't spreading seed everywhere. By the by, birds don't need to be fed. They will be fine without you.

Thursday, February 28
richard corrente

Dear Davebarry,

Cut them a little slack. They aren't "rude, selfish, inconsiderate people." They don't know any better and the "warning for first offenders" is the best part of this legislation. Rix is to be commended.

Happy St. Patricks everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Thursday, February 28
wwkvoter

You can trap a problem animal? What to do with it then?

Thursday, February 28
RRE

Please be advised that raccoons, skunks and groundhogs are rabies vector animals. If you are in contact with them you may need to contact DEM and/or animal control. You may also need a rabies shots.

Thursday, February 28
perky4175

the city should worry more about the junk cars sitting around the city and it looks like rob has trapped enough food for a year

Friday, March 1
justanidiot

whats the vector, Victor?

Friday, March 1
WB

I'm surprised "Thecaptian" doesn't have an opinion on this. Restaurants will now be able to turn him away due to this new law.

Friday, March 1
Cat

I think that depending where you live in the city, the rat problem is hardly noticeable or a huge issue. If you have a house that is near restaurants and grocery stores there is a very big problem with rats. This isn't a non-issue for many of the citizens. It is a step in the right direction as well as the city providing help in getting rid of rats in/around your home. Sure there are other things that need to be taken care of but believe me, when you have a team of rats living in your shed you are mighty glad to hear about steps being taken to stop the problem from getting any worse.

Friday, March 1
DannyHall82

We already have Maintenance Housing Codes to address issues like this, if your neighbor has trash building up or junk everywhere all you have to do is file a complaint. I can’t wait to see how many fines are actually handed out 12 months from now.....I guarantee the Council passed it this time just so they wouldn’t have to keep hearing the Ward 2 Councilman bring it up.

I wish our elected Officials would spend that same amount of time on our Crumbling Schools, Roads and Deficits.

Friday, March 1
Cat

DannyHall82,

If that were the case, we wouldn't have the rat problem we have now. It isn't just garbage piling up from a neighbor. It is an infestation problem that has to be dealt with in order to protect children, adults and pets. I am glad they passed it even if it is just to shut up Rix. At least he was trying to do something for those of us that have had to deal with the problem. He walked the neighborhoods and clearly this was an issue he heard a lot about so he did something about it. You can't fault a representative doing what he was elected to do.

Friday, March 1
DannyHall82

Cat, the infestation problem is from people allowing garbage to pile up. We have Code Violations for that.

Friday, March 1
adogsmom

They need to get the ones who overflow their trash bins . Those who put other junk in their bins and then the sanitation people don’t take it, sometimes 2 weeks in a row. Try that out in let’s say Huly. Nothing is done about those people . You don’t think that draws mice rats etc? Slap on the wrist? That’s about all.

Friday, March 1
Melissa

I totally agree about throwing food on tbe ground and seeds. This does attract animals. My problem is the abandoned properties. There are many that are not maintained. Some boarded up with trash all over the parking lots and driveways. Rats and mice will nest in these types of dwellings. They like to stay where there is no activity. They seek out these places first. The city needs to take action against these prooerty owners. I have lived here for 5 years now and the same abandoned buildings and homes are still the same way. One in particular is the abandoned gas station on the corner of Warwick Ave and Post Rd....when is this going to be addressed? They have put a fence around it...not going to keep vermin out! I have seen rats in broad daylight scurrying near that building. Another building that is a total dump is the one in the corner of Warwick Ave and Atlantic Ave...accross from CVS...one house and one business...abandoned since I have lived here! Total eye sores! Im sure there are animals invading those places too.

Friday, March 1
Scott

OMG. You bunch of whiny little people. Its wild life! It was here before you, it will be here long after you are gone. Yes an overwhelming number of rats , that's because there natural predators are no longer here. Live with your mistakes. Learn from them. Yes wild life dont need you to feed them, they also dont need you to kill them.

Tuesday, March 5
Dolores

I have feed birds for 50 years without a rat problem. I am concerned that Robert Cote prefers killing natural wildlife that are not harming his precious invasive species lilies. Skunks eat grubs, opposums eat ticks, and squirrels are great entertainment. I bet he pours toxic chemicals on his lawn as well.

Tuesday, March 5
scot63

I think ROB COTE has broken the law!!! DEM should be investigating how he trapped or killed the animals.

Wednesday, March 6
Thecaptain

Well now we now that there are 2 more morons residing in Warwick and reading this blog. Dopey Dolores, if you call fertilizer and and Grubex toxic chemicals, then yes, I spread them on my property. Can only imagine what the crap hole property that you live in looks like. Stay in the ghetto.

Scot63, if your brain was not surrounded by your colon, you would know that DEM and Warwick Animal control recommend the Have-a heart trap. Very effective for trapping RODENTS. They also recommend to you how to euthanize the rodents. I dont prefer the euthanization process. I prefer to release the rodents next to the property of the nearest elected democrat.

The operative word - RODENT.

From Wikipedia - Squirrels are members of the family Sciuridae, a family that includes small or medium-size rodents.

Wednesday, March 6
scot63

Captain crunch you are the RODENT , call DEM AND FIND OUT IDIOT!!!!!

Wednesday, March 6
Samuel

The Captain is going to jail. What a freaking moron

Friday, March 8
KeepCalmandCarryOn

I haven't seen any comments that are looking at the root of this problem, the growing number of wooded areas that are being deforested for construction.

This has been a growing concern of mine for a while. In my area of Warwick we have the recently deforested acreage behind what used to be greenwood nurseries, the clearing of land for condos by the corner of post rd and Cowessett Ave, the huge plat of land behind St Clements Church for those ugly houses, the huge trace of land by the railroad bridge for the solar panels, to name a few! Not to mention the airport expansion that was never approved by the residents.

I am not a fan of this development whatsoever given that we have empty buildings galore on this end of Post Rd near the airport just laying waste to the city.

Where are these animals supposed to go? We're any environmental impact studies done for all this development? Are the city planners and building departments doing their jobs?

I had a skunk under my car last night that lives under my neighbors boat. To be honest I don't mind. Where's he going to go?? My only concern is for my dog when we go out for a last bathroom trip st night in my fenced in yard.

Warwick needs to get on the ball with this problem. Why not hire a development czar to get businesses into these empty buildings ? That's one idea I had. The problem is complex and we need to come up with solutions that are not going to turn neighbors against each other. I love my neighbors and my neighborhood in Buttonwoods.

I also love wildlife..let's get some solutions to this problem

Sunday, March 10
KeepCalmandCarryOn

I forgot to add that if the story is true that this lunatic Cote? Trapped and gassed animals, he should be arrested and jailed! He sounds unhinged, what next, people? Disgusting

Sunday, March 10
wwkvoter

damn straight! all I can say is thank goodness he found all the wrongdoing in the city that is now under FBI scrutiny before he goes to jail for squirrelgate!

Sunday, March 10
scot63

Captain Crunch AKA ROB COTE, who has the colon surrounded by there head now??? You are a complete MORON!!!

Can't wait to see you go to jail!!!! what a MAROON!!!!

Monday, March 11
wwkvoter

He didn't say he gassed them, he said he "was told he could", He has stated that he re-released them (catch and release). So the FF's want us to take their word for it, but we readers aren't supposed to take Cote's word? That's just not fair. I dont know Cote and I actually don't know a single Warwick Firefighter either. Just reading along and hoping we get these issues resolved. Also, the city is now basically bankrupt per the mayor and others, so now what?

Monday, March 11