Kent council may face cat fight

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Council is expected to vote tonight on a proposed cats-at-large ordinance, which would make it a misdemeanor for property owners to let their felines stray off their property line.

It also calls for contracting with an outside agency to house stray cats and destroy those that remain unclaimed after three days.

Since council's health and safety committee discussed the proposal and forwarded it to tonight's council meeting, at least 50 people have called the city council office to express concern, said council clerk Linda Mauck. Many others have stopped by to pick up a copy of the proposed legislation, she added.

"None of them expressed support for the proposed ordinance," she said. "Many people agreed there was a problem but didn't seem to think this was the solution."

The city administration was directed to come up with an enforceable policy in June after the committee discussed complaints about felines.

Former Mayor Kathleen Chandler had first placed the issue before council expressing concern that many students move out of their apartments in the city, leaving their stray cats behind.

Councilman Wayne Wilson also had related an incident where a resident was so annoyed by a cat on his property that he captured and killed it. Wilson was called to court to testify that council had been presented with the issue of cats at large and had done nothing about it.

Wilson, who did not attend the committee meeting last week, said he has received a few calls from residents, but after he told them the law would be driven by citizen complaints, most of them said they didn't have a problem with it.

"I don't like government getting involved when it doesn't have to, but I think when we get some complaints every year, it's time we did something," he said. "I don't want to see people killing cats on their own either. I don't think that's humane."

Councilwoman Carol Neff, who also was absent from last week's meeting, said she has received several comments about the legislation. She said she told those who complained to come to tonight's meeting.

She acknowledged that in her neighborhood, which houses many students, there have been some complaints of renters leaving their cats behind. But almost always, she said, those complaints were resolved without involving the city. If the new tenants didn't adopt the cat, she said, the property owner would be called or, if all else failed, residents would pick up the cat themselves and take it to the Animal Protection League.

"Cats aren't' like dogs," she said. "We asked Chief (James) Peach how many complaints he had, and he said very few. I think we're rushing into something. I think it would put too much of a burden on the police."

Last October, Streetsboro City Council also passed a cats at large ordinance. The ordinance forbids cat owners, like dog owners, from letting their pets run at large, said Streetsboro council clerk Pamela Hejduk. Violators are subject to a minor misdemeanor citation.

But the ordinance does not provide for the housing of stray cats or the destruction of those that are unclaimed.

"We don't even have those kinds of facilities for dogs," Hejduk

said.

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