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Cat owners fight zoning rule change

September 18, 2000

Cat owners fight zoning rule change



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer


About 30 Washington County cat owners turned out for a public hearing in Hagerstown Monday night to oppose a zoning change that would require property owners with more than eight cats older than six months to get cattery permits.

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The issue of cat ownership, which is not currently regulated, is related to proposed animal control ordinance changes.

Only Keller Haden, animal control supervisor for the Humane Society of Washington County, spoke in favor of the proposed zoning change.

After investigating complaints, Haden said, animal control officers had to remove felines from homes with 200, 60 and 45 cats.

Most of the people who spoke at the hearing said that the county should establish programs to encourage spaying and neutering of pets, not restrict the number of animals allowed in the homes of responsible owners.

"Most of the people here are responsible," Hagerstown resident Gil Zimmerman, who owns eight cats, told members of the Washington County Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners.

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"I don't know what planning and zoning has to do with the care and welfare of animals," said Marie Wampler, of Halfway.

The zoning change would negatively affect cat owners "who love these animals as members of their own family," said Norm Phelps, of Funkstown.

"You will in effect be breaking up families" if the zoning text amendment is adopted and property owners who now care for more than eight cats aren't allowed to register their felines and be exempted from the proposed cattery permit requirement, Phelps said.

Under the proposed zoning change, which excludes cats on farms and in Hagerstown city limits and municipalities, catteries are defined basically the same as kennels.

Catteries and kennels are prohibited in many zoning areas, such as residential districts, but allowed in conservation, agricultural, business general, highway interchange-1 and planned business districts.

Cattery permits, which would cost $20, could be obtained only by those living in approved zoning areas.

"Do you have to sell your home or get rid of your pets?" Wampler asked. "How many animals will be left homeless?"

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

"You can't tell a person how many dogs a person can keep," said Hancock resident Joyce Conklin.

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

If the zoning board grants the special exception, the total rises to $195.

John Powell, of Keedysville, said it will cost the county too much to enforce the proposed text change, which he called "sloppily written" and unnecessary.

Hagerstown resident Norma Ridenour asked where the money would be funneled if the zoning change is accepted.

No such decisions were made Monday.

Written public comments on the proposed zoning text change will be accepted for the next 10 days, and can be sent to the Washington County Planning Commission, 100 W. Washington St., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

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