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Charleston ordinance would crack down on cats

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An ordinance dealing with cat ownership in Charleston -- long-awaited by some but dreaded by others -- was introduced in city council Tuesday night.

The proposed law, sponsored by East End Independent Councilman Cubert Smith, would prohibit residents from letting cats "run at large," that is, move freely off the owner's property.

It would also be illegal for residents to keep more than three cats over six months old without a special permit issued by the city's humane officer. Owners can be fined for violating those provisions.

In addition, the humane officer can impound cats found running at large.

If a cat is domestic, the owner must claim the animal within 10 days. Otherwise, it would be considered forfeited.

If an owner claims an impounded cat, he or she must prove it is immunized against rabies or pay the Kanawha Charleston Humane Association for a rabies vaccine; reimburse the humane association for "reasonable expense for medical care;" and pay $5 for each day the cat was held.

The ordinance would allow feral cats to be placed at "an accredited agency or organization that uses alternative methods in controlling feral cat populations."

"We have a responsibility to our animals," Smith said after the meeting. "We can't make them prisoners of our love and not take care of their physical needs."

Smith, who has owned cats and dogs himself, first brought the cat issue to council in July. He said the city has a problem with both people who hoard cats and feral cat colonies.

"We can't run away from things in the city if there's a problem," he said Tuesday.

In city council meetings following Smith bringing the issue to council, city residents have spoken for and against cat ownership restrictions. Representatives of the humane association said they wanted no-kill solutions like a "trap-neuter-return" program for feral cats.

St. Albans and South Charleston already limit the number of cats residents may own.

The ordinance was referred to the Ordinance and Rules Committee for consideration. If that committee approves the ordinance, it will go back to city council for final approval. That committee meets next at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 9 on the third floor of City Hall.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at or 304-348-4817.


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