CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A proposed cat ordinance in Charleston is on hold after members of the city council's Ordinance and Rules Committee voted to table the measure Monday night.
The decision came after supporters and opponents of the bill voiced their opinions at the meeting. In addition, the bill's sponsor, East End Independent Councilman Cubert Smith, suggested the bill be tabled to allow more public opinion.
"I know this is an emotional issue," Councilman Jack Harrison, chairman of the committee, said before the meeting. "What we're here tonight for is to find out what the issues are."
Most committee members agreed that an ordinance was the correct path to take to combat issues with feral and domestic cats in the city, but some parts of the ordinance should be changed or removed, such as a "leash law" for cats and a limit on the number of cats a person can have.
"Undoubtedly there's a cat problem in Charleston," Republican at-large Councilman Chris Dodrill said. But, "the idea of a leash law is absurd."
Councilman Courtney Persinger said it isn't fair for people who don't want to deal with cats to have the animals roam on their property.
"I've experienced firsthand a huge problem at my house," he said. "I'm very much in favor of an ordinance of some kind."
Tabling the ordinance allows the bill to be kept alive, but also allows it to be changed before advancing to the full council for a vote.
Over 30 members of the public attended. Most were against the proposed ordinance.
"I absolutely agree there's a cat problem," said Chelsea Staley, interim executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association. But, she added, "We don't have a single cat shelter open today."
Staley told the committee the animal shelter is trying to move as close as it can to a no-kill shelter, and that many cats brought there are euthanized because of lack of room. Requiring cats running at large to be brought to the shelter would cause more to be killed, she said.
Instead of euthanizing feral and stray cats, the shelter advocates a Trap-Neuter-Return program in conjunction with the city. Staley said the shelter gets about 6,500 cats each year.
Cat owners in Charleston also expressed concern about responsible pet owners being penalized for inadvertently violating the law.
"I ask that you give consideration to responsible pet owners," said Charleston resident Cindy Majestro.
Majestro said she moved from St. Albans to Charleston because of St. Albans' cat ordinance. To follow the law in St. Albans, she moved her outdoor cat indoors, and experienced behavior problems with the cat because of the change. Her veterinarian said an outdoor cat likely cannot be moved indoors without behavior problems.
In other instances, cat owners weren't happy with a provision limiting residents to three cats. They argued different homes and owners can handle different numbers of cats.
However, other city residents favored the restrictions, particularly those who had issues with neighboring domestic and feral cats roaming their properties.
"I've had a cat problem for many years," said Charleston resident John Taylor. "It stinks so bad you can't go outside. It's embarrassing."
Taylor said he didn't have a problem with responsible pet owners, but domestic cats cause some of the problems at his home.
Smith, who introduced the ordinance in last week's council meeting after complaints in his ward, said he was pleased at the turnout for the committee meeting because the ordinance got residents talking about the issue. He said he never intended to have any cats killed at any point, but he wanted the issue to be discussed.
"I am so happy I brought this up," he said.
Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Mur...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.