09 March 2007

Of Cats and Men

Cats. They seem to cause all sorts of acrimony between people. Since I've been a prosecutor, I've talked to a number of citizens who are arguing over cats and want the prosecutors office to do something about it. Some make sense, i.e. "The lady in the trailer next to mine has at least thirty cats, they're in bad shape, and it stinks.", and some are things like a person upset that his neighbor's cat walks on his truck's hood. Generally, I refer them to animal control and defer to the officers' decisions over there; I'm sure they have a better handle on what the local animal control ordinances are than I do and are better able to decide what's a valid complaint.

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.

"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.
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.

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.

1 comment:

sal said...

My nephew had a warrant out for his arrest. I thought to myself, what evil deed did this kid do that a warrant would need to be issued.

Well, here it is:

Warrant Nbr: xxxxxx
Primary Charge: OT6.12.020 EC
Warrant Type: Arrest
Type of Crime: MISDEMEANOR
Date of Issue: xx/xx/2007
Bail Amount: $1,255.00
Court of Issue: El Cajon Municipal Court Appearance: MANDATORY

6.12.020 Running at large—Prohibited generally.

No dog shall run at large in the city. No person owning or having the control or custody of any dog shall permit or allow such dog to run at large within the city. (Ord. 4031 § 3 (part), 1987: prior code § 5-17.)

My nephew is in his early 20's and I am in my mid 30's and I can remember having to go get our dog out of the pound when he got out and just having to pay a small fee to get him out.

Not only did my nephew have to pay to get the dog out, he had to have a electronic chip implanted in the dogs head for identification and apparently pay a fine to the City.

The Federal and State Government make laws to protect citizens from debt collectors who use underhanded tactics to collect a debt. They didn't realize that the worst debt collector would turn out to be the City. Would any other debt collector get away with issuing an Arrest Warrant to collect their bills.