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Herding Cats: One Vermont Town is Going to Try

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 22, 2010 10:17 AM

Written testimony offered by a cat. That is just the beginning of the feline folly that ensued last week when the Barre, Vt. city council seriously considered authoring a leash law for, that is correct, the town's cats. It all began when the council began reviewing its animal and leash laws with an eye to overhauling them. The legal "claws" causing concern? According to an ordinance passed in 1973, "No owner or keeper of an animal shall allow his, theirs or its animal to run at large."

What would be the purpose of the restraining the free-roaming felines of Barre? According a report by the AP, council members have received numerous reports of carousing kitties using gardens as litter boxes and the like. Not to mention the more widespread problem of murder. "Scientists estimate that free-roaming cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians each year," says the Virginia-based American Bird Conservancy, which runs a "Cats Indoors!" campaign.

Before you mentally consign the members of this Vermont town to the Looney bin for even considering such legislation, know that according to the AP, they are far from the fist to do so. Cities with cat leash laws or other restrictions include Akron, Oh.; Aurora, Colo.; Montgomery County, Md.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; and good ol' New Orleans.

Indeed, as far back as 1949, the Illinois Legislature passed "An Act to provide Protection to Insectivorous Birds by Restraining Cats." This law was promptly vetoed by then -Governor Adlai Stevenson, who wrote with his usual erudition, "To escort a cat abroad on a leash is against the nature of the cat."

Perhaps you were wondering what testimony was provided to lawmakers on the topic of restraining the town cats? After the local paper ran a story on the proposed update to the law, a hissy little letter to the editor offered opposition, claiming cats are "are quite neat when it comes to personal sociological matters. Generally, we provide valuable services to urban areas notably in the realm of vermin control." The letter was signed Morticai Flint, who turns out to be a tiger cat, owned by true cat fanciers Paul and Alison Flint.

The fur will stop flying by later this summer when a proposal on the updated law is expected.

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