It’s official. Cats get a pass in Ocean Springs.
But just cats. Dogs better behave.
City leaders decided unanimously Tuesday night to change the city animal ordinance to exempt cats from the leash law.
That means they will be able to leave their property and roam a bit, as long as they don’t damage other property or become what the law considers a nuisance. If they become a nuisance, then there is a fine.
Mayor Connie Moran worked out the details with the city attorney and others, and the Board of Aldermen passed the measure unanimously Tuesday night — the law will change to “exclude cats from those animals not permitted to trespass on another’s property.”
I don’t know how we’ll identify repeat offenders.
Mark Dunston, Ocean Springs police chief
“The idea is not to subject everyone’s domestic cat to be confined,” Moran said. “Kitties are free.”
But she pointed out there’s more teeth in a fine if kitty becomes a nuisance.
The measure makes sense, said cat fanciers who attended the meeting. Their concern, however, was how feral cats would be considered in the animal-control law. Linda Cox and Jan Munn are with a group that wants feral cats not to be hauled to the county animal shelter when they are picked up. And they wanted to see a fine for anyone caught dumping a cat.
The city has a large feral population in certain areas, including downtown. The city leaders recognized the group for its efforts to help the city reduce these populations through a trap, neuter and release program.
Under the law, when Tuesday’s changes go into effect next month, the animal-control officer won’t impound a roaming cat that has a tag or microchip, but would return it to its owner. The city said it also would work with the cat group to return feral cats — those marked with a clipped ear by the trap-and-neuter program — to them. The group would then return a feral to its colony.
The law still requires cats to have collars and be vaccinated.
Alderman John Gill voted for the change, but also pointed out a homeowner could no longer call animal control just because a neighbor’s cat was in his yard.
“We lose control, if a guy doesn’t want a cat in his yard,” Gill said. “He can’t just call.”
Then they discussed what might constitute a nuisance that would justify a call — digging in someone’s garden, scratching outdoor furniture, messing in places repeatedly.
Police Chief Mark Dunston, who oversees the animal-control officer, said if the city wants to exclude cats, “we’ll do it.”
Then he said, half joking, “I don’t know how we’ll identify repeat offenders.”