The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has proposed a law that could make it illegal to feed birds and squirrels in city parks. WLNY-TV reported.
The city has claimed that banning all wildlife feeding would help clean up the parks. If passed, the law would constitute "an abuse of park animals" and rule breakers could be fined $50 and, in some cases, spend a night behind bars.
Currently, city park visitors are only allowed to feed birds and squirrels. Feeding other animals is prohibited.
What do residents say?
The proposal has sparked debate between the city and residents. A spokesperson from the parks department told WLNY that food left on the ground attracts rodents and that the amendment would help alleviate the problem.
"I'd be in support of the rule just to be able to prevent people from doing that because we have a very bad rat population here," resident Sara Rivera told the news station.
Caitlin Shann, who feeds the pigeons, argued that birdseed is not the reason for rodents.
"They eat garbage and they eat people's food waste and so that's where we should be focused," Shann told WLNY. "They should be hiring people to clean up garbage and putting in rat-proof garbage cans."
The parks spokesperson told WLNY that human food isn't good for wildlife and the animals don't need to become dependent on people feeding them.
Some said that it's necessary to feed the squirrels and birds because many of the city parks' trees lack the nutrients the animals need.
Lucia Maria said she regularly feeds squirrels at Madison Square Park, although it's currently one of a few parks that don't allow squirrel feeding.
"I get them prime nuts, and sometimes, during the summer it's a bit of fruit or a coconut because they need hydration," Maria said.
Others believe it would be cruel to stop feeding the animals.
"This is their home. How can we deny them food?" Roxanne Delgado of Bronx Animal Rights Electors told the station.
When will the city decide on the rule?
A decision on the matter is expected this summer.