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Vermont town weighs cat leash law

Cat leash

BARRE, Vt. — A clause in a city law that requires cats to be on leashes has sparked a hissing match among fans of free-roaming felines.

A City Council meeting with cats on the agenda drew an unusually large crowd of about 30 people Tuesday night, including one woman who brought three large signs, one of which said, "Arrest criminals, not cats. Can Barre afford a jail for cats?"

City officials cited complaints from some residents about a roaming cat that turned a neighbor's garden into a litter box.

Barre resident Sue Higby called a leash law for cats "a bad idea ... unless you want to have the police department chasing cats around for a million dollars an hour."

Cities around the country and at least one state have enacted or considered cat restraint laws. In 1949, the Illinois Legislature passed "An Act to provide Protection to Insectivorous Birds by Restraining Cats."

It was vetoed by then-Gov. Adlai Stevenson, who wrote, "To escort a cat abroad on a leash is against the nature of the cat," according to the New Jersey-based Cat Fanciers' Assn.

The agency says jurisdictions with cat leash laws or similar restrictions include Akron, Ohio; Aurora, Colo.; Montgomery County, Md.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; and New Orleans.

In Barre, the feline firestorm started last week when city officials began reviewing animal control ordinances with an eye to updating them. Mayor Thomas Lauzon said then that a draft rewrite would have the effect of banning cats from roaming.

Reviews were mixed among residents lined up Tuesday at the Simply Creamies ice cream stand near City Hall.

"Have you ever tried walking around with a cat on a leash? It sounds kind of crazy," said Cheyenne Roberts, co-owner of the Pit Stop Diner in Barre.

Thad Cochran of nearby Plainfield had this rejoinder: "If dogs have to have a leash, why not cats?

Lauzon said Tuesday that no one on the council intended to require that cats be restrained. But on second look at the law, he realized that both the existing ordinance, adopted in 1973, and the proposed rewrite ban roaming cats; the law had just never been enforced.

"No owner or keeper of an animal shall allow his, theirs or its animal to run at large," the key language says. Cat owners hoping to get around the law by a whisker appeared to be out of luck. Animal is defined by the city as "every living being, not human or plant."

When the daily newspaper serving Barre, the Times Argus, ran a story about the cat restrictions last week, the caterwauling began.

Cats "are quite neat when it comes to personal scatological matters," said a letter to the editor bearing the signature Morticai Flint, who turns out to be a tiger cat owned by Paul and Alison Flint. "Generally, we provide valuable services to urban areas notably in the realm of vermin control."

Paul Flint attended the council meeting, carrying a toy kitten in a cat carrier and explaining, "Morticai wouldn't get into the cage."

Some say the solution to cats wandering into trouble is keeping them indoors.

"Scientists estimate that free-roaming cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians each year," the Virginia-based American Bird Conservancy, which runs a "Cats Indoors!" campaign, says on its website. "Cat predation is an added stress to wildlife populations already struggling to survive habitat loss, pollution, pesticides, and other human impacts."

Lauzon said the city may end up with a compromise ordinance requiring cats to wear collars with tags identifying their owners and showing their rabies shots were up to date. Owners would only be fined if their roaming cats were determined to be a nuisance.

The issue is expected to be settled later this summer.

RELATED CAT NEWS:
Procter & Gamble announces voluntary recall of some Iams canned cat food over thiamine concerns
Arizona towns to quarantine cats in response to rabies outbreak

-- Dave Gram, Associated Press

Photo: A cat owner walks her cat on a leash. Credit: Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (5)

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Sounds like a great idea to me. Dogs are easier to train to leash but it would be a great idea for cats as well. I cannot tell you how many dead kitties I have seen on the road. No responsible owner would allow their cat to roam freely and risk being their death. Yes for the cat leash law. If you don't want to leash your cat, don't let them outside.

I can never understand how anyone could share human accommodation with an animal. I realise some would say my wife did. I guess if you live in an apartment it could be difficult not to do so if you insist on having feline or canine company.

It is unlawful here not to contain animals. Cats are now being considered for registration as it is for dogs, with strict limits on numbers. I think this is more to protect the animals.

For me stepping into most homes with indoor pets is an assault on the olfactory senses, as bad as when entering a smokers home. In Britain I was once offered a seat in a home with pets, after they had removed one of two Alsatians. I found that to be extremely offensive. They remarked. "I understand that in Australia you don't let your dogs inside." I replied . "We have an agreement. He doesn't enter my house, I don't climb in his kennel."

On my property we have a proliferation of bird life with not a cat to be seen in the whole 4 mile long valley. The reverse was the case when we arrived here 30 years ago. Wallaby, Kangaroo, the occasional Wombat eat on my lawn. I know of at least two dozen specie of birds, some I feed in winter. I wouldn't call any tame but they aren't afraid either. Kookaburras, and Boobooks, Currawongs, and Rosella all add their song to the symphony of the dawn chorus. Beats the hell out of , fighting, caterwauling cats. For that matter they are better than my damned Rooster too.

Come to think of it, there are some animal owners who should be on the leash.

I personally have a problem with a neighbor whose cats come to my garden and flower beds daily - I'm so tired of it!! It is absolutely disgusting - cats should be controlled by their owners just as much as dogs are controlled.

Cats on leashes! Ha ha ha ha ha! Right. Good luck with that.

You can walk a cat on a leash wtht no problem if you start them out on one when they are little. I have done it many times.


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