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How many cats is too many?

September 22, 2000

How many cats is too many?



It all depends on where you live. On a dairy farm, where cats perform the valuable function of controlling rodents, a dozen probably wouldn't be excessive. In a suburban development, on a quarter-acre lot, 12 might be pushing it, particularly if they're allowed to roam.

The Humane Society of Washington County is pressing for a change that would require anyone owning more than eight cats older than six months to get a permit for a cattery, which is a kennel for felines.

Keller Haden, the society's animal control supervisor, told people who assembled for a public hearing on the proposal Monday that after investigating complaints, officers have been forced to remove cats from homes with anywhere from 45 to 200 cats.

On the other side was a group of pet owners, who say they care responsibly for their animals, treating them like members of their families. The new rule, they say, would break up these "families" since catteries and kennels are prohibited in many zoning districts, such as residential locations.

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Even responsible people have to admit, however, that there are some irresponsible owners out there who keep more animals than they can care for. Those animals suffer from lack of proper nutrition, medical care and in some cases from lack of proper hygiene due to inadequate disposal of their waste.

Once you've admitted that there are irresponsible owners and that their helpless animals suffer, it follows that some protection is needed - and some reasonable limit on how many animals can be kept in one house.

Perhaps the answer is a formula for how many animals would be allowed based on a dwelling's square footage, or a requirement that any home with eight or more animals be periodically inspected. Perhaps the responsible pet owners who attended the hearing have other, better suggestions. The only one we'll reject out of hand is the idea that because some people treat their animals well that authorities should ignore those who don't.

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