Domesticated Cats Declared a Menace
Beginning in October, free-roaming cats will be branded outlaws.
June 28, 2007
On June 19, the Birmingham City Council approved changes in the city’s animal control ordinance that would make it against the law for pet owners to allow cats to roam free, even if the cats have collars and rabies tags. The changes will not take effect until October 1, 2007. One week earlier, councilors had debated the merits of including cats in the pet ordinance, with all but Councilor Joel Montgomery supporting the measure. Montgomery asked if the added service was being undertaken without knowledge of the “net financial effect on the city at this point.” City attorney Patricia Burns replied, “The only difference is they can pick up cats that have rabies tags. They pick up lots of cats now already. They just don’t have tags on them.” Eight of the councilors voted to include cats with collars, and Montgomery abstained.In an interview, city attorney Burns said that the inclusion of cats was complaint-generated. “[We got] complaints about people who had cats coming on their property, otherwise we wouldn’t have done anything,“ said Burns. The attorney added that many of the complaints were to city councilors from constituents. Burns said she did not believe that a significant cost increase would occur.
One local animal activist who owns several cats (one of which lives outdoors) says that loose cats should be treated like free-roaming dogs. “No animal should be running around unrestrained, cats or dogs,” the woman said. From her research into animal issues, she’s found that it’s not uncommon for cities to pick up loose cats wearing rabies tags. She added that she doubts that the new law regarding cats will be enforced anyway. The woman, who requested anonymity, did express surprise that free-roaming felines would be a sudden priority, considering other complaints that area residents have with the city and county’s animal control service.
Councilor Valerie Abbott said she had received complaints from constituents. “We have complaints about cats from people who don’t want other people’s cats on their property killing their birds and stuff,” explained Abbott. “And then we receive complaints from cat owners who are upset because their cats get killed by dogs that are running loose, but, of course, their cats [must be] running loose in order to be killed. We’ve received complaints from non-cat owners and cat owners [laughs]. And both problems stem from the fact that animals are running amuck.” &