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Residents question proposed cat ordinance

| Monday, July 14, 2008

Connellsville City Council's proposed cat ordinance isn't making some city residents happy.

The proposed ordinance, introduced last month, would require cat owners to have their pets licensed.

Resident Roberta Graft told council last week the ordinance is upsetting to many pet owners.

"You can't license feral cats and stray cats don't have owners, so it would be the responsible cat owners who are going to have to pay for this," she said.

Plus, Graft said, if the city plans to get rid of all the feral and stray cats, which representatives say are problems, there will be another issue to deal with -- rats.

Resident Thomas Lopzasney said the ordinance is not the way to solve the problem.

"I don't know if you're doing this in place of a tax possibility, but I think there are a lot of easier ways to raise money than this way," he said.

The ordinance does not contain language exempting cats that never go outside, but Councilman David McIntire, director of public health and safety, said last month that he would include such language before submitting a final version.

Under state law, all cats must have rabies shots. Proof of immunization will be required for licensing. The owner must include his or her address, name, color, age and sex of the cat. The license will be a durable tax including an ID number, year of issuance and the following information: Connellsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Cats must wear a collar with both the rabies tag and the license at all times. Licenses are not transferable.

The license will be good for one year. McIntire offered tentative costs for license fees and penalties: $15 for a cat that is not neutered or spayed and $10 for a cat that has been neutered or spayed. McIntire said he would consider lower license fees for cats owned by senior citizens.

Licenses must be obtained within 30 days after obtaining a cat older than 4 months or for cat owners within 30 days of the ordinance taking effect. Nonresidents may keep cats in Connellsville for up to 60 days without licensing. Anyone who does not obtain a license within the required time will be subject to a $50 delinquent fee.

Licenses may be renewed within 60 days of the expiration date.

All cats must be kept under restraint, which the ordinance defines as on the owner's property limits or on a leash or a lead or under the control of a responsible person.

Every cat considered dangerous to people or other animals, as determined by the Connellsville animal control agent, currently the SPCA, must be confined to a building or a secure enclosure. No cat may cause a nuisance. The owner of every cat shall be held responsible for every behavior of the cat.

Cats at large may be confined by animal control or the agent may notify the owner of the violation. Animal control agents have the authority to have cats determined to be suffering treated or euthanized at the owner's expense.

The ordinance includes fees for reclaiming cats and penalties for noncompliance. Violating the ordinance will result in a fine of no less than $100 and no more than $250 plus court costs.

The 30 days needed for the ordinance to be viewed by the public had not passed by Thursday's council meeting, so no action was taken.

In other business last week, city tax collector Judy Keller asked council to consider eliminating the per capita tax, or at least consider raising the annual salary level for per capita tax eligibility.

"The current accepted annual salary level was set at $5,000 in 1967," Keller said. "That might have been acceptable in 1967, but this is 2008 and that's not a livable wage as it might have been 41 years ago."

She added that individuals come to her and tell her they are living on $650 a month.

"Unfortunately I have to tell them they are not eligible for an exemption," Keller said.

Fayette County has already raised its limit to $10,000.

Council announced PennDOT will hold a public meeting Thursday at the Connellsville Township Fire Hall from 5:30 to 7 p.m. to discuss preliminary design plans for a truck pull off on Springfield Pike.

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