Voters in Dudley, Massachusetts voted to modify their bylaws so that a kennel license costing $50 is now required for anyone who wants to own more than three cats. The vote was a reaction to a neighborhood feud regarding the behavior of one resident's 15 cats, some of which are let outside and have gotten into neighbors' yards.
The resident, Mary Ellen Richards, faces a fine of $100 a day for violating the new requirement, as does any other resident who fails to either limit their cat population to three or fewer or obtain the necessary license. She plans to move to a more cat-friendly city.
Media reports do not indicate whether Dudley has any restrictions on the number of dogs that a resident may own without a kennel license.
It is understandable that residents were upset by damage done to a neighbor's yard by cats that were not properly contained by their owner, and that they want to prevent any further damage or similar instances. However, the solution that they came up with for addressing the problem is very shortsighted. It will apparently solve the immediate problem by driving Ms. Richards out of town, but punishes people who are in no way contributing to the problem, and fails to address the real root causes of the situation.
Residents would have been better off voting to require that owned cats be kept indoors or otherwise kept on the owner's property, or finding another means of addressing this specific incident. The number of cats that Ms. Richards owns would not be a public issue if they were not allowed to wander the neighborhood and cause damage. And while the new license may be a nice source of funds for the town of Dudley, it will do nothing to prevent similar problems with residents who have three or fewer cats that cause damage in neighbors' yards or otherwise cause objections from neighbors.
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