In Barre, the feline firestorm started last week when city officials began reviewing animal control ordinances with an eye to updating them. Mayor Thomas Lauzon said then that a draft rewrite would have the effect of banning cats from roaming.
Reviews were mixed among residents lined up Tuesday at the Simply Creamies ice cream stand near City Hall.
"Have you ever tried walking around with a cat on a leash? It sounds kind of crazy," said Cheyenne Roberts, co-owner of the Pit Stop Diner in Barre.
Lauzon said Tuesday that no one on the council intended to require that cats be restrained. But on second look at the law, he realized that both the existing ordinance, adopted in 1973, and the proposed rewrite ban roaming cats; the law had just never been enforced.
"No owner or keeper of an animal shall allow his, theirs or its animal to run at large," the key language says. Cat owners hoping to get around the law by a whisker appeared to be out of luck. Animal is defined by the city as "every living being, not human or plant."
When the daily newspaper serving Barre, The Times Argus, ran a story about the cat restrictions last week, the caterwauling began.
Cats "are quite neat when it comes to personal scatological matters," said a letter to the editor bearing the signature Morticai Flint, who turns out to be a tiger cat owned by Paul and Alison Flint. "Generally, we provide valuable services to urban areas notably in the realm of vermin control."