Last week I'm sitting at my desk fighting the paperwork battle and one of the secretaries sticks her head in my office: "There's a lady on the phone who wants to know if a town can force her to keep her cat on a leash." Ummm . . . What do you say to something like that? "Tell her they can if the General Assembly has said they can." It was an accurate statement of the law because Virginia is a strict Dillon's Rule State. It also expressed the limit of my knowledge on that question (I must admit, I don't spend my time perusing the sections of the code having to do with leash laws since they don't usually come up in felony trials).
So, I did a little research and it turns out that a local town has passed an ordinance requiring that pets be under control at all times.
The ordinance makes it against the law "for any person to allow animals or poultry to run at large" within the corporate limits.I did a little more research. The General Assembly has allowed localities to require cats to be licensed. The General Assembly has also allowed localities to pass ordinances requiring dogs to be on a leash or otherwise restrained. However, I can't find an enabling statute for the ordinance passed by the town. I'm not sure that means it doesn't exist; the throwing in of poultry in the ordinance makes me suspect that the town lawyer may be relying on some sort of enabling statute allowing a "no farm animals in town" ordinance.
"Running at large means to roam, run, self-hunt or move in an unconfined manner while off the property of its owner or custodian and not under its owner's or custodian's immediate control," reads the ordinance.
All I know is that I plan on moving back over the mountain sometime this Summer and, despite the fact that I've met a number of good people from that town, I can't move there now. My cats don't listen to me about much of anything. I have three purposes in life as far as they are concerned. 1) I open the door: to let them in when I get home and to force them to go out in the morning (it gets a lot like the Flintstones around here when it's a cold morning; one of my cats has actually mastered the art of spinning in mid-air as I toss her out and bounding right back in the door). 2) I provide food (and not just that dry cat food stuff; more than once I have gotten distracted watching TV and turned back around to find a cat's face in my glass of milk). I pet them (in fact, if I ever lay a book down while I'm reading a cat will come over and lay on top of it to make sure I know my priority is petting him, not entertaining myself). There's no way I can exercise the level of control the town wants me to over my cats.