Time to Take the Cat for a Walk

Don’t forget the leash!

By John Wist
|  Thursday, Jun 17, 2010  |  Updated 11:00 AM EDT
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Time to Take the Cat for a Walk

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Next time you grab the leash and take the dog for a walk, why don’t you bring the cat along? You may need to get used to it. Many communities are instituting laws that require cats to be restrained.

The most recent development in cat wrangling comes from Vermont, where the town of Barre is considering revising language in its books that would ban cats from roaming. Town officials say the intention wasn’t to force citizens to restrain their cats. But the rewrite of the law means locals could get fined if their friendly feline is out and about without a leash.

Some residents aren’t happy about the new law. One woman recently brought a sign to a city council meeting that said, “Arrest criminals, not cats. Can Barre afford a jail for cats?”

But laws restricting a cat’s freedom of movement aren’t rare. In 1949 Illinois passed, “An Act to provide Protection to Insectivorous Birds by Restricting Cats.” Gov. Adlai Stevenson quickly vetoed it saying, “To escort a cat abroad on a leash is against the nature of the cat.”

But currently cats can’t walk around freely in Akron, Ohio; Aurora, Colo.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; New Orleans and even nearby Montgomery County, Md.

In Montgomery County, many animals are not allowed to be “at large.” In reference to cats, the law says, “Any other animal (i.e., cat or livestock animal) is at large if it is outside the owner’s premises and not leashed or immediately responsive to verbal or non-verbal direction.”

In Vermont, council members said they looked to revise the law when they got complaints that some cats were using flowerbeds as litter boxes. But there are actually groups who combat outdoor cats.

The American Bird Conservancy, based in Virginia, runs a “Cats Indoors!” campaign.

“Scientists estimate that free-roaming cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians each year,” the campaign website says. “Cat predation is an added stress to wildlife populations already struggling to survive habitat loss, pollution, pesticides, and other human impacts.”

We at NBC4 have witnessed the effects of a cat leash, and let us just say it wasn’t pretty. Results may vary, but the cat we saw wearing the leash would hardly move, not to mention walk. Cats, after all, do have different personalities than dogs or other leashable animals. It seems like their free spirits may be a little too reigned in by the leashes.

Then again, if a cat used our flowerbed as a litter box we may want to chain it to a tree, too.

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