The Trustees of the town of Carbondale, Colorado, USA have passed an ordinance (a law) which defines “a nuisance cat”. The intention is to reduce the number of outside cats which includes strays becoming ferals.
The definition: A nuisance cat is one which causes unprovoked personal injury, that wanders at large and whose owner can’t be found, that is diseased, that disturbs the peace by habitual meowing or that soils someone else’s property without it being picked up by the owner.
The definition is interesting. By the backdoor it makes the owner of a cat vicariously liable for the trespassing of their cat onto someone else’s property to go to the toilet.
The definition is also very widely drafted. If a cat is an inside/outside and wanders far where the owner is unknown the cat might well be branded a nuisance cat.
The definition refers to a cat that is “diseased”. I think the law makers need to define that word too in the context of the ordinance. It is a word that is easily misconstrued. What about a loved outside/inside cat who is old and who has some geriatric diseases such as periodontal disease, feline Hyperthyroidism, constipation and kidney disease? Would this sweet, old cat be labelled a “nuisance”?
Playing devil’s advocate, the ordinance leaves the door open to malicious reporting to the authorities by cat haters or neighbours with an axe to grind. It could lead to some unfortunate situations. It may be impractical or difficult to enforce this law.
The penalties are quite severe. If the owner is unknown the cat will be impounded. If the owner is known he/she could be fined up to $1,000 and/or 180 days in jail.
The ordinance is a new way to try and reduce stray cat numbers. The city’s lawmakers decided not to make spaying and neutering obligatory. Obligatory spaying and neutering is obviously one way to reduce cat population sizes.
The reason for not going down the spaying and neutering route was because it was decided that many cat owners would abandon their cats if they were forced to pay for spaying and neutering. That argument is ridiculous. It implies that there are many careless cat owners in the area who should not be cat owners. If a cat owner cannot afford neutering they should not be cat owners. Mandatory neutering is a better route in my opinion when combined with registration.
Any laws regarding controlling stray cat numbers will be fraught with difficulties because this is about changing a culture amongst the minority of irresponsible cat owners. Can a law achieve that?