To regulate, through laws, cat ownership or not. That is the question.
This is a radical change in policy on how cat owners should keep cats. Whereas in most places there is little or no regulation in the form of local laws as to how people should keep their cats and deal with feral cats, the Borough of Northumberland, Pennsylvania, USA, has turned that concept upside down and proposes an ordinance (local legislation) that tightly regulates the keeping of animals in general, which includes the domestic cat and other domestic animals.
I have presented pictures of the actual ordinance below (Ordinance 2013-3). It is quite readable so please don’t be put off by that. I have done this for clarity. I have been selective in reproducing sections that are relevant to cat owners and/or the most important to us. You can read the entire ordinance here (opens a new window).
WIth respect to cats, in outline, this borough proposes that cats that are outside should be on a leash. Unlicensed cats cannot be fed outside unless under their own funded trap-neuter-return scheme or if an application is successfully made to the local authority. There are strict conditions for feeding cats outdoors. The proposed law obliterates the concept of free moving indoor/outdoor cats.
All cats are to be registered (licensed) and the cost of the TNR scheme is to be funded by fines imposed by offenders and fees for late registration as far as I am aware.
Here are two key sections:
The reason for the law is to protect the health, welfare and amenity of the inhabitants of the Borough of Northumberland:
Alley Cat Allies have complained about this ordinance. They argue that making it obligatory for an outside cat to be on a leash is (a) impractical, as cats are not dogs and (b) it will lead to many more cat deaths at shelters because cats will get out and be trapped and taken to shelters where most are euthanised (killed in truth). Alley Cat Allies say that feral cat caregivers will be baned from feeding and caring for the cats. I not sure that is completely true because (a) a license can be sought and (b) they can probably get involved with the government run TNR program.
Alley Cat Allies did not refer to the local government funded TNR programme which is good…..
I am not supporting this ordinance but it is not all bad.
This is part of the section on restrictions regarding feeding outdoors:
This is more that a leash law proposed by a local government. It goes much wider. The concept is to regulate companion animal ownership for the benefit of the community at large. It is a two sided law (a) regulate pet ownership and (b) formally manage feral cat colonies under government controlled TNR programmes to reduce stray cat populations. The objective: to get owned and non-owned cats of streets.
There have been various attempts in American and particularly Australia to regulate companion animal ownership. The reasons given, in this instance, make no mention of protecting wildlife (thankfully). It is all about amenity and people’s health.
Some parts are good (TNR). Some parts are impractical (leash for cats). They have overlooked the benefits of outdoor cats (keeping down rodent numbers). There may be unforeseen consquences. People don’t like to be over regulated. Is this law the way we are heading with respect to cat ownership?