Pioneer Editorial: Proposed cat policy too onerous
The city of Bemidji, in order to appease a few birdwatchers and solve a few problem cat hoarders, have gone way overboard in proposing an ordinance that essentially intrudes into the private lives of its citizens.
The Bemidji City Council will hold the final reading May 17 of an ordinance which severely restricts cat ownership in the city, limiting people to three cats, and requiring annual licenses, that cats wear a collar with tag, and have annual rabies shots.
There are some problem areas that should draw public health concerns. We all hear of the periodic horror stories of some kindly person who is caring for 30, 40 or maybe 50 cats. Cages all over the house, cat feces all over and ill cats. Any kind of ordinance should be directed at that activity, not to the average cat owner, many of whom have house cats that never enter the outdoors. Under those circumstances, perhaps we should start licensing gold fish, hamsters and newts.
What of the cat which has a litter of six kittens? Three must be killed immediately? What if a family wants to care for that litter? Under the proposed ordinance, they can't.
To handle the problem cases, the city should pick a higher number, say 10 cats, and require those places to acquire a commercial kennel license which includes regular public health and veterinary inspections. Such provisions would not paint a broad brush over all cat owners in the city.
The key is public education. The city needs to work with the Humane Society to educate the public about spaying and neutering animals so numbers of feral animals don't grow out of control. By definition, feral cats are wild and probably not included in any individual's three-cat count of the pets they live with. Our animal shelters are full already of unwanted animals; the proposed ordinance would add to that problem or - we shudder - promote an annual hunting season on feral cats.
Not many jurisdictions have ordinances as onerous as that proposed by the Bemidji City Council. Some cities do have ordinances that require pet owners not to let their cats wander around, requiring they be on a leash when outdoors. That makes sense.
The council needs to rethink its ordinance and produce one that solves problems without intruding upon the private property rights of its residents.