Claws out in cat fight

On the town's Web site, under "animal control," the following advice appears:

"Cats belong inside your house outside cats average lifespan 3 years, inside at average lifespan 15 years."

Town Animal Control Officer Richard Watt says that is just advice, however; neither Bethlehem nor New York state have laws on the books pertaining to cats "running at large."

"The only time I really can really pick them up is if the cat bites someone and I can't find the owner," said Watt.

Still, he said, he estimated he responds to just as many complaints regarding cats as dogs, most of which involve cats near bird feeders, cat feces or cat bites. He also said he picks up far more cats that have been killed by cars than dogs.

"Any animal that's let outside, running on its own, stands a really good chance of getting into trouble," he said.

Bolen and Jones said that they'd like to see Bethlehem adopt a law along the lines of what exists in the nearby Village of Ravena, which adopted a cat control law in January.

Under the Ravena statute, cat owners who let their cats outside are compelled to keep their cats on their own property and identify them through tags or other means, though there is no licensing required. According to Mayor John Bruno, the local law was adopted to control the feral cat population and not domesticated pets.

"We had such a problem that they were starting to destroy property," he said of the village's feral cats.

Now, an animal control officer traps roaming cats. If it's owned the cat is released, but strays are turned over to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, which puts all but seriously ill felines up for adoption. Bruno said the law has been a success.

"It has worked. We have not had one complaint that we have picked up a resident's pet or anything like that," he said.

Those who violate the Ravena law are subject to fines ranging from $125 for the first offense to $375 for the third and subsequent offenses.

Bethlehem Supervisor Jack Cunningham said that the town will investigate requests for a cat law, but declined comment until he has studied the issue further.

Bolen is asking those with similar concerns or contact her at kkskids@yahoo.com.""

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