Cat rescue runs into problems with local authority zoning (planning) laws

CHIEFLAND, FLORIDA-NEWS AND COMMENT: Lexi’s Kitty Corner operates, to the best of my knowledge, from the home of the founder of this non-profit charity, whose name is Alexis Lewis. The moral of her story is that anyone who wishes to found an animal rescue organisation from their home needs to check zoning (planning) laws to make sure that it is allowed. This is particularly important because animal rescues in residential areas affect neighbours. But I have nothing but praise for her in her efforts to help vulnerable cats and save lives. It is just that you have to be careful with respect to planning.

Alexis Lewis and kitten with a URI
Alexis Lewis and kitten with a URI. Photo: her FB page.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The reporting on this is quite sketchy but my understanding is that Alexis Lewis has expanded her cat rescue into backyard outbuildings. The neighbours have complained (to her?) and to the local authority. In response, the local authority has demanded that Alexis stops her operation at the current facility as she is in breach of zoning laws.

That’s an American term which I believe means that in the area (zone) that Alexis Lewis lives permission is not granted to run an animal rescue. And therefore, she has to find a premises somewhere out of Levy County as she has received a citation from Levi County Code Enforcement on April 8 stating that she needs a licence from the authority (permission) to use the sheds in her backyard as part of her animal rescue organisation.

Alexis had hoped that the sheds would be “grandfathered” in. From that I presume that she means they would be allowed under permission granted to other sheds on her property. The county made it clear that a non-profit cannot operate from a single-family dwelling.

Alexis complains that in Levy County “NO ONE is zoned for rescue” and yet she is the only one with problems. She’s saying that there are other rescues in the county operating without problems and feels picked on. She suggests that she has been picked upon because her neighbours have complained.

Chiefland, Florida
Chiefland, Florida

The story is interesting for me because it highlights the need for people who want to start animal rescue to check with the local authority that they are allowed to operate from home under the existing planning i.e. zoning laws appertaining to that area.

It appears that Alexis wasn’t quite accurate enough in that area and has got herself into a problem. She is looking for a building that she can rent or rent-to-own. Her neighbours have told that they won’t stop being difficult until she makes these changes.

Alexis’s latest posting on her Facebook page dated April 18 (see below) states that she is looking for a building “inside of Chiefland to try to get our adoption centre”. I think that she wants an adoption centre in a different place to the facility where the cats and kittens are housed. I’m not sure how that will meet the requirements under zoning laws. No doubt she has checked.

She says that they would like to do “meet and greets, adoptions, intakes, and housing a few of the cats at this location. We could also be able to have volunteers come in and help this way!”

She is operating an online funding campaign requesting funds to help with this reorganisation. Please visit her Facebook page if you feel that you can help.

There are some more cat rescue stories below.

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