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Leash law for cats? Vermont law raises feline firestorm.

Leash law for cats: In Vermont, a clause in a city law to restrict roaming felines has gotten cat fanciers' dander up.

By Dave GramAssociated Press Writer / June 17, 2010

Leash law for cats: Probably unaware that it is breaking the law, a cat sits under a tree in Barre, Vt, Tuesday.

Toby Talbot/AP

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Barre, Vt.

A clause in a city law that requires cats to be on leashes has sparked a hissing match among fans of free-roaming felines.

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A City Council meeting with cats on the agenda drew an unusually large crowd of about 30 people Tuesday night, including one woman who brought three large signs, one of which said, "Arrest criminals, not cats. Can Barre afford a jail for cats?"

City officials cited complaints from some residents about a roaming cat that turned a neighbor's garden into a litter box.

Barre resident Sue Higby called a leash law for cats "a bad idea ... unless you want to have the police department chasing cats around for a million dollars an hour."

Cities around the country and at least one state have enacted or considered cat restraint laws. In 1949, the Illinois Legislature passed "An Act to provide Protection to Insectivorous Birds by Restraining Cats."

It was vetoed by then-Gov. Adlai Stevenson, who wrote, "To escort a cat abroad on a leash is against the nature of the cat," according to the New Jersey-based Cat Fanciers' Association.

The agency says jurisdictions with cat leash laws or similar restrictions include Akron, Ohio; Aurora, Colo.; Montgomery County, Md.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; and New Orleans.

In Barre, the feline firestorm started last week when city officials began reviewing animal control ordinances with an eye to updating them. Mayor Thomas Lauzon said then that a draft rewrite would have the effect of banning cats from roaming.

Reviews were mixed among residents lined up Tuesday at the Simply Creamies ice cream stand near City Hall.

"Have you ever tried walking around with a cat on a leash? It sounds kind of crazy," said Cheyenne Roberts, co-owner of the Pit Stop Diner in Barre.

Thad Cochran of nearby Plainfield had this rejoinder: "If dogs have to have a leash, why not cats?