Weymouth Is Weighing a Cat Leash Law

Its a political debate that's internet catnip.

The Town of Weymouth is engaged in divisive political debate over a hot-button issue: cat leash laws.

According to the Patriot Ledger, a Weymouth resident has proposed revising the town ordinance to require that cats be kept leashed or restrained when taken off the owner’s property. This isn’t by any means the first cat leash law to be proposed in America, and history teaches us that the arguments usually follow a familiar pattern, one to which Weymouth is already adhering.

Those against leash laws usually argue that they would be hard to enforce because it is against a cat’s nature to be restrained, cats frequently don’t wear collars, etc. Weymouth’s animal control officer makes several of these points in the Ledger story:

“In reality, I just don’t think it would really do anything,” Parker said. “I’ve never had an issue of a cat that we know has a known owner that’s really causing a nuisance. How much of a nuisance can a cat cause on your property?”

Supporters of leash laws usually talk of fairness: why leash dogs but not cats? Weymouth resident Lorraine Nicotera, who proposed the change, takes it a step further:

“Cats are toxic to wildlife. … It’s a cancer in our state,” she said. “I open my window and I get the lovely smell of cat (urine), and I’m tired of it.”

That woman basically just declared war on the whole of the internet. She’s not the first person to feel passionately about a cat leash law proposal. In Barre, Vermont, debate over a similar law in 2010 got pretty, pretty heated, according to the Associated Press:

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?”

Who can say? The AP says the history of cat leash controversy in America stretches even further back than this. When he was Governor of Illinois, Adlai Stevenson vetoed a cat leash law, pointing out that, “To escort a cat abroad on a leash is against the nature of the cat.” Stevenson went on to lose two presidential elections, and while we’re not saying that one thing caused the other … we are strongly implying it. Forget Social Security. Cat leashes are the real third rail in politics.

Meanwhile in Weymouth, the ordinance committee is set to consider the proposal next week. Will the town avoid the political divisions and pitfalls that have racked so many other cities and states as it sorts out its feelings on felines? Only time will tell. (But they’ll probably be fine.)