Are the leash laws of Springfield, Illinois the future of cat ownership in America? As I understand it, these laws mean that cat owners can only allow their cats outside if they are on a leash. There appears to be an absolute restriction on free-roaming cats and it is ‘strict liability’. This means there is no defense. It will please a lot of people who dislike cats and simultaneously protect cats from these people but is this ordinance going to be adopted by other local authorities?
Greg Largent, the director of Animal Control for the County of Sangamon, which encompasses Springfield, says that the city has an ordinance where all animals need to be restrained. He explains that “dogs, cats and companion animals are expected to be on a leash or otherwise restrained”.
If cat owners break the law their cat can be confiscated and they can be required to pay a fine. That’s all very well but is it working? We are told that in some instances cats are being taken from front yards. One cat owner said:
“Our cat was not a feral cat, she was healthy, friendly and a dear family member”.
She said that a woman took her cat to Animal Control. It appears that a person involved in enforcing this ordinance had trespassed on her property. Although, I would like to stress that it is not clear what happened. Enforcement may be a big problem.
§ 96.074. – Dogs and cats.
No vicious or dangerous dog shall be permitted in zones A, B, C, D, or E. Any dog or cat found running at large may be taken up by the city, and if not promptly called for, may be destroyed or otherwise disposed of.
§ 91.15. – Restraint of dogs and other animals.
(a) The owner or keeper of a dog or other animal shall keep the dog or other animal under restraint as defined in this chapter, at all times.
(b) Any person convicted of violating this section shall be fined $75 for first violation and $150 for each violation thereafter.
(c) Any dog used for law enforcement or rescue purposes shall be exempt from this section.
(d) The provisions of this section shall be a positive duty of the owner or keeper and the offense described herein shall be a strict liability offense.
The Fox 55 27 Illinois website states that the first time a cat is impounded there is a fine of $102 to get your cat back. The cat owner also has to pay a $21 boarding fee for every day the cat is looked after by the authorities.
There’s no doubt that this law will make cat owners keep their cats inside. They will be too scared to let their cat go into the front yard. It seems that if cat owners are to let their cats go outside in Springfield Illinois it will have to be into a fully enclosed backyard surrounded by a cat confinement fence or on a leash. Very few cat owners will try to train their cat to accept a leash to go walkies. It is not easy.