Opponents of a new ordinance say cats are an independent animal that cannot be kept to a leash or inside a fenced yard.
Journal World Reporter
Cat lovers failed Tuesday night to convince Lawrence city commissioners that the law should treat their pets differently than dogs.
After listening to nearly an hour of public comment, commissioners voted 3-1 to approve the first reading of an ordinance that would require both dogs and cats either to be kept on a leash or inside a fenced yard when they are outside.
The leash law for dogs and cats is part of a package of new ordinances aimed at tightening the city's animal control laws. The other two include requirements for additional restraints on vicious dogs and a "pooper scooper" ordinance requiring pet owners to clean up their animals' messes.
But while those proposals already had received enough public comment and debate that commissioners were able to advance them as part of the routine consent agenda, proposed changes in the leash law caught many residents by surprise, and they asked that it be pulled out for full public discussion.
"I don't think most people object to the original intent of this thing, which was vicious dogs attacking people's pets," said Arley Allen, who spoke out against the proposal. "But it's a little hard to understand why you'd want to broaden this thing to include cats."
Allen was just one of several residents who tried to convince commissioners that cats and dogs cannot be treated the same. Cats are independent creatures, opponents argued. They do not tolerate being put on a leash, and a fence is no barrier to them getting out and wandering the neighborhood as they please.
But just as many people argued in favor of getting a firmer handle on the city's cat problem.
Midge Grinstead, executive director of the Lawrence Humane Society, said that each day the animal shelter receives one to five cats that have been hit by cars, attacked by other animals or abused by humans. Of the estimated 2,700 cats the Humane Society took in last year, she said, only about 125 were returned to their owners.
Grinstead also said Lawrence has a problem with colonies of wild feral cats -- strays that have never had any contact with humans -- and those cats are at much higher risk of carrying rabies or other infectious diseases.
Dr. Kristi Bradley, a veterinarian, agreed. The owner of four cats of her own, Bradley said she keeps all of her cats indoors all the time because outdoor cats, on average, have shorter lifespans than indoor cats.
Bradley said the leash law for cats would benefit both the human and cat populations in Lawrence, not only by helping keep cats out of people's yards and gardens, but also by shielding them from the many hazards they face in the outside world.
Final reading of the animal control laws is tentatively scheduled for next week.
-- Peter Hancock's phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.