Cats: Pet or Menace?

There are rules in the neighborhood that cat owners should follow

Francesca and Priscilla pose for the camera.

Photo by Aaron Ricca.

Francesca and Priscilla pose for the camera.

photo

Dr. Taylor Williams (left) gives a FVRCP shot to LB the cat as vet tech Jakki Paulson assists Wednesday at the Low Cost Spay Neuter Clinic.

Lovable to some, nuisance to others, but not as loud or dangerous as dogs.

Cats aren’t bound to the strictness (or enforceable) pet laws as dogs, but there are plenty of city, county and state ordinances that limit or prohibit certain cat behavior and the behavior of the cat owner.

Unlike dogs, cats don’t need to be registered and licensed with the city. That already lets them off the hook for many animal-related ordinances.

Kingman Municipal Code, Chapter 3, deals with animal laws. It states that a cat that makes excessive noise, attacks other domestic animals, damages, defiles or soils public or private property or harms the lawful users or occupants is a public nuisance.

Neighborhood Services Code Enforcement Officer Adam Lucier has been with the department for a little over a year and said they get calls for a variety of reasons.

“We get infrequent calls for large numbers of cats on a property, nuisance cats getting on a property or harming other animals.” he said. “One of the most common is for cats getting struck on the roads.”

How not to be a Cat-lady

City code states that on residential lots under 40,000 square feet, the number of cats over the age of four months is limited to three per household (four for more than 40,000 square feet). The total number of dogs, cats or combination thereof over the age of four months shall not exceed three per household (four for more than 40,000 square feet).

The KPD’s Neighborhood Services handles city code enforcement for cats and dogs. Sgt. Dave Reif said calls for cats are infrequent because they only deal with nuisance cats. He had no numbers on how often KPD gets calls for cats as opposed to dogs.

Code states, “No person owning, keeping, possessing, harboring or maintaining a cat shall allow such cat to be a public nuisance. Enforcement officers shall capture and impound any cat found to be a public nuisance in violation of the provisions of this section, or criminally cite the owner into city court, or both.”

When it is necessary for the protection of people or property, an enforcement officer may take appropriate steps to capture or humanely destroy the vicious cat if they have reasonable cause to believe a cat is vicious or a public nuisance and reasonably believe the cat cannot be safely captured and impounded.

Neighborhood Services also gets the occasional cat bite that needs to be reported to Mohave County Animal Control or Neighborhood Services, which is required by law to check the animal for rabies.

By law, cats in heat are prohibited from running around and stirring up trouble, but anyone who has heard yowling in the middle of the night knows that is borderline unenforceable, and the city requires cat owners to clean up after their pet, be they excrete Himalayan-sized mounds of feces or tiny piles that add up over time.

Cruelty

Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly subjecting any animal under the person’s custody or control to cruel neglect, abandonment, inflicting unnecessary physical injury or killing any animal or failing to provide medical attention is illegal.

Punishments for animal cruelty range from a class 1 misdemeanor to class 6 felony. The maximum sentence is six months in prison, three years’ probation and up to a $25,000 fine.

Cruelty calls are few and far between.

“I have yet in my tenure to see an animal cruelty case go to court,” Lucier said.

Arizona Statute 13-2910, permits law officers to use reasonable force to open a vehicle if an animal is trapped and physical injury or death is likely to result.

Vaccinations/Spay and Neuter

Responsibility isn’t just about following laws. Local animal hosptials and shelters highly recommend a pet be spayed or neutered to control cat population.

Western Arizona Humane Society Operations Manager Lisa Snyder said the county-owned shelters will not let a cat be adopted without it being spayed or neutered and vaccinated.

“That includes the feral cats we send out,” Snyder said.

There are currently 74 cats in the care of the Kingman shelter, many of which are feral.

WAHS has been reducing the amount of feral cat euthanasia by ramping up their Working Cat program. Property owners – specifically ranchers – wanting feral cats for rodent and snake control can trap a cat and bring it to WAHS. They’ll spay or neuter and vaccinate them, free of charge, and either return the cats to the person or, for a small donation, put it up for adoption in the working cat program.

“We’ve turned from euthanizing about 50 percent of the cats we get,” Snyder said.

WAHS has euthanized three feral cats in the last two months.

To Claw or not to Claw

It is legal in the state of Arizona to have a cat declawed.

Dr. Robin Waldron, veterinarian at Manzanita Animal Hospital prefers that it be done at the kitten stage, if at all.

“Doing it at a young age is certainly the way to approach it,” he said. “My personal feelings are not to declaw. I’d prefer to keep the claws clipped.”

He understands it’s necessary in situations involving newborn babies or ultra-destructive cats, but highly recommends buying a scratching post for the animal. Cat owners can also buy artificial pheromones to spray on furniture and carpet to divert a cat toward the scratching post.

Feline Taxidermy

If you want the late Claws von Scratchmeow mounted for posterity, he can be taken to a taxidermist, but it is difficult to find one in Kingman who will do the deed.

“It is legal but I don’t do it,” said Amber Kirby, taxidermist at Down and Mount Taxidermy in Kingman. “Not a lot of taxidermists want to cut into Fluffy.”

She gets about six calls a year and refers them to a Nevada-based taxidermist. Kirby said she’d feel squeamish cutting into someone’s beloved pet.

“I feel like a pet owner knows their pet’s face,” she said. “An elk is an elk and a deer is a deer. You can do an anatomically correct cat and still might not get (its personality) just right.”

Read the city animal codes online at http://www.codepublishing.com/AZ/Kingman/.