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Law would require permit to house more than eight cats

September 14, 2000

Law would require permit to house more than eight cats



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


Washington County property owners who have more than eight cats could find themselves having to choose between moving or obtaining cattery permits under a zoning change scheduled for a public hearing Monday night.

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The change is related to a proposed animal control ordinance change that would require property owners with more than eight cats older than six months to get cattery permits.

The permits could be obtained only by those living in certain zoning areas, and property owners with more than eight cats living in one of the residential zoning districts, for instance, could be forced to choose between their property and their cats, County Attorney Richard Douglas said Thursday.

While the City of Hagerstown generally adopts the county's animal control ordinance, the cattery requirements wouldn't apply to city property owners because the city has different zoning requirements, Douglas said.

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If the proposal gains approval, cattery permits would cost $20. There would be an exemption for farm property.

Monday's public hearing will be on the zoning changes that relate to the proposed animal control ordinance. Public hearings have been held previously on the animal control ordinance, but Monday's hearing will be the first on the related zoning ordinance changes.

A date hasn't been set for the Washington County Commissioners to further discuss the animal control ordinance, Douglas said.

Animal control ordinance changes were requested by the Humane Society of Washington County, formerly the Washington County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which handles animal control for the county.

An earlier plan to widen the definition of kennels to include all "living, nonhuman, vertebrate creatures" was scrapped and the wording removed from the draft of the animal control ordinance because the county did not have the legal authority to make the change, Douglas said.

The county can, however, require a cattery permit under the zoning ordinance because of its broader enabling law, he said.

Property owners currently must obtain zoning permits to operate or maintain kennels if they have three or more adult dogs on their property. Under the new proposal, a property would be considered a kennel if it had more than five dogs over the age of six months.

Catteries and kennels aren't permitted uses in many zoning districts of the county. They are allowed only in agricultural, business general, highway interchange-1 and planned business districts.

An application to the Board of Zoning Appeals for a special exception for a cattery or kennel permit would cost $175. The permits can be obtained in the county's permits and inspections office provided the property is zoned to allow that use as a special exception, he said.

If the Board of Zoning Appeals grants the special exception, the total rises to $195. The last public hearing on the ordinance was in January 2000 but it has been discussed at public meetings since then.

The first public hearing on the proposal was held January 1999.

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