Posted by Christina Jedra March 4, 2013 03:10 PM
Photo: Toby Talbot/AP ImagesSet to take the stage once again at Concord’s town meeting this April, Lydia Lodynsky said she hopes her revised proposal and the findings of a recent study on free-roaming cats’ negative effect on wildlife will persuade townspeople to pass her pet control bylaw.
Lodynsky said the bylaw proposal was largely misinterpreted by media outlets and Concord townspeople. She said some news publications wrote about the bylaw as if her proposal was written to force pet owners to use a leash on their outdoor cats.
“It was never proposed as a cat leash law,” she said. “By the time I walked up to the podium [last year] it was like walking up there with a scarlet letter.”
Lodynsky said she knew when she got on stage to present last year, she was fighting a losing battle.
At last year’s town meeting, Lodynsky’s proposal lost in a tie-vote technicality. She said she has since condensed the bylaw and has created a tiered system of fines for violators to clarify her position.
“If everybody took the time and really read these articles, they would see that they're very reasonable,” she said. “They’re really logical and they really fall into protecting the cats as well as making peace with the neighbors.”
Free-ranging felines are the cause of between 1.4 and 3.7 billion bird deaths each year and between 6.9 and 20.7 billion mammal deaths annually, according to the Nature Communications study, released Jan. 29.
The purpose of Lodynsky’s article is to create a bylaw encouraging cat owners to keep their cats indoor or within the confines of their property, according to the final article.
“No owner or keeper of a cat shall allow his/her cat to enter onto the property of a neighbor if the neighbor has expressed his objection,” the article stated. “No person shall allow his/her cat to disturb the peace of neighbors or private property, or endanger the safety of any other person or pet.”
There is no mention of leashing cats within the article or its stipulations, Lodynsky said.
“I really can't see how people can object to any of these [stipulations] except for the fact that a lot of people who own cats respond emotionally and not rationally to this,” she said.
Lodynsky’s article also proposes a cat registry wherein cat owners would have to pay a small fee to register their cats and would afford owners a better chance of finding their lost animals, she said.
Lesley Nesbitt, of Highland Street, said she does not have a problem with free-roaming cats as it follows life’s natural order.
“The squirrel population is out of control and I’m happy we have cats around in our neighborhood keeping their population down,” she said. “They’re a serious nuisance — not just looking at them, because they eat trashcans and one time they ate the lining of our chimney.”
However, Nesbitt said she agreed with Lodynsky’s proposal for a local cat registry.
“All dog owners have to register their dogs,” she said. “It will also keep track of vaccinations and it would make a healthier cat population. People lose their cats a lot and it would be helpful to call up a register to find your cat.”
Michelle Heaton, another Concord resident, said a law controlling domestic cats is taking the issue of pet control too far.
“There is a domestic cat problem and too many cats out there disrupting wildlife, but there are better ways to go about it,” she said. “That should be an educational issue. If you can inform people on how to be responsible pet owners, that shows there are better ways to go about it other than instating a law.”
Not all residents agreed with the cat registry system. Kelly Arle, of Lexington Road, said the cat registry system would be an unnecessary expense for townspeople.
“If there is a fine or a fee involved, it’s not a convenient thing for people,” she said. “It’s a little bit of a hassle, the paperwork and the fee you have to pay every year. If you have a domesticated cat then I don’t think it’s appropriate.”
Even with the media’s misrepresentations about her proposal, Lodynsky said her biggest challenge come April may actually be voter turnout.
“To get only 400 people to come to town meeting isn't very representative of the town,” she said. “The people who are the angriest come.”
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and the Boston University News Service.