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Romigh asks for village support in cat licensing battle

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MASSENA — Village resident Charles B. Romigh asked the Board of Trustees on Tuesday night to support legislation requiring cat owners to purchase licenses for their pets.

While neither Mayor James F. Hidy nor any of the board members commented on the matter during the meeting, Mr. Hidy said afterward that he would speak with Supervisor Joseph D. Gray to see where the Town Council stands on the issue.

Mr. Romigh said he thinks he has the Town Council’s support.

Mr. Romigh said he “finds it amazing” that cat owners are not held to the same standards as dog owners, noting that if a dog “does what dogs do” on someone’s property, the owner would be held responsible.

Despite a law on the books in Massena that says cat owners are to be held responsible for their pets, Mr. Romigh said that’s not the case.

The law states:

“No person, being the owner or harborer of any cat, shall allow such cat to commit any nuisance within the village of Massena or cause damage to the person or property of others. The following are declared to be public nuisances. ... The fact that the owner or harborer of a cat has allowed or permitted such cat to commit any of the acts herein prohibited shall be presumptive evidence against the owner or harborer of such cat that he or she has failed to properly confine or control such cat: defecating, urinating, digging or otherwise damaging public or private property of the owner or harborer.”

Mr. Hidy said he was aware of the law, but he said enforcing it would be no easy task.

“To enforce it would be a nightmare,” he said. “Anybody could deny ownership of a problem cat. It’s not as easy to keep track of cats as it is with dogs.”

Mr. Romigh said that if cat owners were required to purchase licenses for their pets, it would increase revenues for the municipality and encourage pet owners to be more responsible for their animals.

He also cited recent reports from the St. Lawrence County Health Department that rabies is on the rise in the county.

“Most of our area is pretty rural and there are skunks and raccoons. If a cat is out at night and tangles with one, there is a good chance it is rabid,” Mr. Romigh said, adding that if the cat was unlicensed and unvaccinated and then bit a child, the child could contract rabies.

Mr. Hidy declined to offer his opinion on whether cats should be licensed, but said he understands licensing cats would be a bit problematic.

“I can see where it would be a major headache for the town clerk because of the cat population,” he said. “It would certainly be a difficult task.”

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