Can domestic cats go outside the home in Marion County, FL, USA? The answer is yes but under tight restrictions which more or less state in a roundabout way that cats should be on a leash when outside and under the control of the person holding the leash.
The applicable ordinance is reproduced below the article on this page. I have highlighted what I see as relevant sections. Virtually all of the animal control law of Marion County is to do with dogs.
Summary of the cat confinement laws of Marion County
It is not stated in the ordinance that cats are to be confined or contained within the home or the back yard. However, the restrictions to outside activity are so tight so that they effectively contain cats to the home.
The conclusion I have come to is that cats are allowed outside provided they are supervised 100% – someone must be in attendance. That might mean the owner being in close proximity to their cat at all times provided the cat is docile and won’t run off (and therefore the person has control over the cat) or the cat is kept on a leash (preferred).
The companion animal adoption forms from Marion County animal shelters imply that cats must be on a leash when outside but as I read the ordinance this is not strictly correct. The cat must be under the control of the owner or someone employed by the owner. It is possible for a cat to be under the control of the owner without a leash if the cat is trained and compliant. That is unlikely, I agree, but technically possible.
The first paragraph of the ordinance highlighted below sums it up.
Chapter 4 – ANIMAL CONTROL AND ENFORCEMENT
Sec. 4-10. – Control of animals.
(a) It shall be the duty of every animal owner or responsible person to ensure that the animal is kept under direct humane control. Reasonable care and precaution shall be taken to prevent the animal from leaving, while unattended, the real property limits of its owner or responsible person; and the animal is:
(1) Securely and humanely confined within a house, building, fence, pen, or other enclosure with sufficient ventilation; or
(2) Except as provided herein, the unsupervised, unattended outdoor tethering of a dog is prohibited, whether or not the dog is otherwise inside a fenced or enclosed outdoor area. Where the dog is being held or kept outdoors a tether may be used as a means of direct control of the dog, only if all of the following conditions are met:
a. The dog is in visible range of the owner or responsible party, which person must also be outside with the dog at all times. There is authorized the following narrow exception to this condition: The dog owner or responsible person may leave a dog tethered outdoors on the property for a reasonable period while such owner or responsible person performs a temporary task indoors. In no event may the owner or responsible person leave the premises while a dog is left tethered, unattended, outdoors. A dog may never be left tethered and unattended on vacant or abandoned property.
b. Any tether must be of sufficient strength to prevent escape.
c. The tether must be attached to the animal by a properly applied, buckle-type nylon or leather collar, or halter or harness, with a swivel hook, and configured so as to protect the animal from injury and prevent entanglement with other objects and/or animals.
d. The tether shall not be attached to a stationary object or trolley at a point or location that would allow the animal to extend the tether over a fence or other object or edge in such manner that could result in the strangulation of or injury to the animal.
e. The foregoing provisions regarding tethering do not apply to a lawful animal event, veterinarian treatment, grooming, training, or law enforcement.
f. The provisions of subsection (2), and subsection (2)a., above, do not apply to dogs that are kept or used on lands being used for a bona fide farm operation on lands classified as agricultural pursuant to F.S. § 193.461 [cf. sections 163.3162(3)(a), and F.S. § 823.14(6); see, definitions of “farm,” “farm operation,” and “farm product” at F.S. § 823.14(3)(a), (b), and (c)].
(3) A dangerous dog may only be kept on a tether according to the foregoing requirements if it is otherwise secured within a proper enclosure for a dangerous dog, as defined herein.
(4) Leashed under direct control by an owner or responsible person at any time it is not secured as provided in [subsections] (a)(1) or (2) of this section.
(b) It shall be the duty of every animal owner or responsible person to ensure that the animal is kept under direct control at all times while the animal is off the real property limits of the owner or responsible person.
(c) This section shall not apply to dogs during any time in which they are engaged in hunting, or training, law enforcement work, performing field trials, participating in dog shows organized events, or in locations designated by the board as pet play areas, dog parks or exercise areas.
(d) Animal control or enforcement officers shall have the authority to take up, confine, hold and impound any animal and which is found to be running at large or straying. The owner of such animal shall be responsible for the costs of impoundment.
(e) It shall be unlawful for the owner of an animal or responsible person to:
(1) Fail to maintain direct control of an animal resulting in a bite or injury to a human being, unless such animal was reacting to a person unlawfully on its owner’s property or protecting itself, its owner or keeper from an unjustified attack or assault; or
(2) Fail to maintain direct control of an animal resulting in an attack on another domestic animal while off the owner’s or keeper’s property; or
(3) Fail to humanely confine a female dog or cat in heat (estrus) in a properly ventilated building or secure enclosure with a top so as to make it inaccessible to any male dog or cat, except for controlled and intentional breeding purposes. The animal may not be walked off the owner or responsible person’s property or leasehold during this time.
(f) All livestock shall be controlled by utilizing fencing or enclosures which shall meet the livestock fencing minimum requirements.
(Ord. No. 11-55, § 1, 10-18-11; Ord. No. 14-06, § 1, 4-1-14)
Sec. 4-11. – Domestic animals creating a nuisance.
(a) Without regard to knowledge, intent, or culpability, an owner shall prevent a domestic animal from becoming a nuisance. The department of animal services may impound a domestic animal creating a nuisance. A nuisance includes but is not limited to:
(1) A domestic animal that trespasses on public or private property;
(2) A domestic animal that causes damage to another person’s property;
(3) A domestic animal that creates a danger to the public health or safety;
(4) A domestic animal that disturbs or turns over garbage containers;
(5) A domestic animal that chases or molests vehicles, bicycles, persons, or animals;
(6) A domestic animal that displays a menacing or threatening behavior; or
(7) A domestic animal that defecates on public or private property other than the owner’s property.
(b) Domestic animals creating noise disturbances.
(1) Any animal barking, whining, howling or making objectionable noises that can be clearly heard beyond the boundaries of the owner’s property and that continues for a minimum continuous period of fifteen (15) minutes may be considered a nuisance. In making a determination whether to cite an animal owner for a nuisance based on a noise-related disturbance, the animal control officer shall exercise his or her sound discretion, based on the totality of the circumstances and upon the standard of a “reasonable objective complainant” in such circumstances.
(2) The prohibition against barking, whining, howling and making objectionable noises shall not apply between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. to commercial boarding kennels which are in compliance with the Marion County Land Development Code.
(3) This subsection shall not apply to domestic animals on land zoned for agricultural purposes.
(c) An owner of any animal, upon the death of such animal, shall dispose of the carcass by burying the carcass at a sufficient depth, of at least two (2) feet below the surface to prevent predators from exhuming the carcass, or by recognized alternate methods of disposal such as cremation, or rendering. An owner shall not dispose of the carcass of any animal by dumping such carcass on any public or private property.