A change to an ordinance regulating the number of felines one can own within the Clinton city limits is expected to be considered following concerns about the adverse effects of the current regulations.
Local resident Lindsay Peterson made the formal request for a modified ordinance to the City Council this week. He cited the overabundance of cats, the need to get them adopted and the hindrance the current ordinance posed to the fostering period that often occurs before cats can be transported to out-of-state rescues.
“In the South, we have an overabundance of adoptable animals, princely because of the warm climate,” said Peterson. “We’re overrun with animals is basically what it amounts to. As I’ve gotten involved in this, I’ve found that the northern states have a need for adoptable animals. As a local rescue group we are particularly interested in this because of the issues of fostering cats rescued from the Sampson County Animal Shelter.”
Partnerships have been built through networking, but often a quarantine period is needed prior to that transportation. That requires fostering animals, specifically cats.
“The problem we’ve got is trying to get cats out of the Animal Shelter and foster those cats, usually for a 10-day period before we move them to our animal rescues out of state,” said Peterson. “We desperately need to get cats out of the shelter as soon as possible and on their way to rescues that will take them. We need your help to help us foster cats as we move them to out-of-area cat rescues.”
Lindsay and Jan Peterson, representing local rescue Paws Rule, submitted a letter to city manager John Connet in which they noted a “stark difference in the City of Clinton’s municipal code relating to the numbers of cats and dogs that can be owned.” Nearby towns in surrounding counties do not even address the number of cats allowed.
The current ordinance for cats reads that no owner shall keep more than three cats within the city except within a pet shop or animal shelter or the premises of a humane society. Peterson noted other municipalities Wallace, Fayetteville, Burgaw, Wilmington, Hope Mills, Jacksonville and Mount Olive among them — which do not even mention cats in their municipal codes.
He proposed two options for Council: no restriction on the number of cats, or a modified ordinance that mirrored the city’s current one for dogs.
That modified ordinance, verbatim from the current dog ordinance, would read that “it shall be unlawful for any person to own, to keep custody of or take care of four or more cats, five months or older, who are frequently outside on the premises, unless the person has a special permit issued by the animal control officer.”
Peterson said the current cat ordinance does not address litters of kittens, and contrary to the dog ordinance, does not mention regulations on ages of cats. Currently, the ordinance is “weird,” he said.
“That basically means I could have 20 dogs inside my house, but I can’t let more than three of them out in my yard at any one time on a frequent basis,” said Peterson, “but I can only have three cats. Right now, if I had a cat and a litter of six kittens that I needed fostered, according to the ordinance (that person) couldn’t foster those cats even if he didn’t have any cats at his house.”
He noted the need for fosters for cats and kittens for short periods of time while these animals are waiting to go to various out-of-town or out-of-state adopters or cat rescue groups. In essence, the ordinance prohibits city residents who already have cats from filling this need.
“We’re not asking for a situation where people can pull cats and load their houses up,” said Peterson. “We’re asking so that people can pull cats, we can foster them and they can be moved after 10 days. That’s all we’re asking.”
Additionally, under the current ordinance, Peterson said, Animal Control officers must pick up any cat not wearing a collar with rabies tag and ID. It is not cost-effective, and actually has a detrimental effect when taking into account the food chain.
“The unfounded fear that there would be hordes of cats running amok is ludicrous,” Peterson said. “Outside cats are not the problem.”
If the cat population drops, the rat and rabbit population rises, Peterson said. An increase in the rabbit population is an increase of the food supply for foxes and coyotes, which is a potential hazard, he noted.
“This is already becoming a problem with coyotes and foxes slowly venturing into the city,” said Peterson. “As the food supply increases, there will be more.”
Mayor Lew Starling asked that attorney Dale Johnson draft a modified ordinance and bring it back to the Council for consideration next month.
“I’m not sure anybody really knows why the ordinance was written the way it was,” said Peterson, “We desperately need this ordinance changed so we can get cats out of that shelter as quickly as we can and moved to the rescues.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.