Town Board says committee should perfect cat ordinance
Carbondale’s Board of Trustees stopped short of approving a new cat ordinance Tuesday night, electing instead to form a committee to work out the details.
The meeting was also an opportunity for public comment, with the majority of those present supporting an ordinance requiring registration, implementing fines when owners let their cats leave their property, and capping the maximum number of cats at five.
“Just because you’ve historically let your pet go outside… doesn’t mean that it’s right. You have to be responsible for what it’s doing,” said Mary Harris, president of the Roaring Fork Audubon Society. “If it’s an inconvenience to a pet owner, that’s secondary. The most important thing is our wildlife.”
Cindy Sadlowski, longtime Carbondale Street Cat Coalition volunteer, disagreed.
“I think you should ban birdfeeders,” she said. “You concentrate on the birds, and now you’re going to blame the cats.”
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Like Town Manager Jay Harrington, she questioned the practical viability of such a program.
“This is just crazy that you think you’re going to control these animals,” she said. “I spend hours trying to get one cat. Is your police department prepared to do that?”
When things began to heat up between the factions, Mayor Stacey Bernot did her best to keep the peace and give the trustees a chance to say their piece.
“It’s kind of like herding cats,” she quipped.
For her part, Bernot favored something with more teeth than the old ordinance, which allows residents to complain about a nuisance cat but leaves the specifics — like whether going after birds in a neighbor’s yard qualifies as a nuisance — undefined. She cautioned that a more aggressive registration program would likely come with a cost, and advocated for some penalty flexibility with first time violations.
Trustees Allyn Harvey and Alexander Hobbs each advocated further dialogue.
“Carbondale’s a very friendly dog community, and I don’t want it to become known as a very unfriendly cat community,” said Harvey. “I don’t think we have to have an ordinance change tonight, but we have to have a conversation on a way to hold cat owners responsible.”
Frosty Merriott was less patient.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to do something different here,” he said. “To throw this ordinance out is not acceptable to me.”
In the end, while John Hoffman was prepared to go through each item point by point, the rest of the board was not. Instead, they agreed on a committee with members of both factions which, as Police Chief Gene Schilling pointed out, is the same process that produced the town’s dog ordinance.
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