By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Carbondale’s Board of Trustees overrode objections from the town’s top police official at a meeting on Nov. 24, and by a vote of 4-1 approved a new law providing stricter oversight of domestic cats in town than the previous town code.
But the new law is not as strict as some wanted it to be, in that it does not require that cat owners have their pet cats spayed or neutered, licensed and vaccinated for certain known feline diseases.
Instead, cat owners are “encouraged” under the new law to arrange to have the cats fixed, licensed and vaccinated.
The sole dissenting vote at the trustee meeting came from Trustee Pam Zentmyer, who at one point argued that the fees linked to the new ordinance might result in cats being abandoned if they are picked up by police on some infraction.
Zentmyer was agreeing with sentiments expressed by local real-estate agent Cindy Sadlowski, who has run a volunteer organization known as the Street Cats Coalition for the past 15 years, trapping and treating feral cats in Carbondale and other communities.
Police Chief Gene Schilling recommended against passage of the new law in a memo to the trustees, stating, “I would recommend that the Board of Trustees not adopt a new ordinance and retain the current cat ordinance as the police department still has concerns about the cost associated and the amount of resources that could be expended by the police department” with passage of a new ordinance.
Under the new ordinance, owners of cats that run afoul of the law and are picked up by police may be liable for a variety of expenses, including fines of $10 for the first offense, $30 for the second offense, $50 for a third and not less than $100 for a fourth offense.
For any subsequent violations, the owner of a cat in custody could wind up in municipal court and face further fines and up to 180 days in jail.
In addition, owners of cats that are deemed a “nuisance” by police and captured, would be required to pay the costs of vaccinations (if unable to provide proof that the cat has been vaccinated), a $30 pound fee and an additional $20 per day that the cat remains in the pound.
“That’s a lot of money,” Zentmyer said during the meeting.
Several trustees, however, maintained that the new law was needed as a way of cutting down on the number of cats roaming free around Carbondale and preying on the area’s bird population.
Other trustee action included amending the town’s home-rule charter, switching the regular meeting days for the Board of Trustees from the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, to the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, effective in January.
Published in The Sopris Sun on December 3, 2015.