Community, News
Can pets roam free in Hastings?

 

Social media randomly proves to be useful now and then, especially for story ideas. This particular idea came from a person upset that there are cats roaming free in their neighborhood. Not contained in a yard, restrained on a leash, but left to roam. This has been a hotly debated topic numerous times before. Is this a big deal or not? Before I dive into that aspect, let’s look at what the ordinance is for the City of Hastings: 91.05 Restraint and Confinement.

It shall be unlawful for the dog or cat of any person who owns, harbors, or keeps a dog or cat, to run at large. A person, who owns, harbors, or keeps a dog or cat which runs at large shall be subject to enforcement pursuant to City Code § 10.99. Dogs or cats on a leash and accompanied by a responsible person or accompanied by and under the control and direction of a responsible person, so as to be effectively restrained by command as by leash, shall be permitted in streets or on public land unless the city has posted an area with signs reading “Dogs or Cats Prohibited.” Penalty, see § 10.99 (1) The city ordinance says it is illegal to let your dog or cat run at large or run free. The last sentence has one word in it that sticks out, ‘penalty’. Section 10.99 reads as such.

“10.99 General penalty. Any person who violates any provision of this code for which another penalty is not specifically provided shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor. The penalty which may be imposed for any crime that is a misdemeanor under this code, including Minnesota Statutes specifically adopted by reference, shall include a sentence of a fine or jail or both, up to the maximum authorized by law.”

There are a few more paragraphs after the section describing the opportunity for the city to modify penalties, et cetera, but I won’t bore you with those details because you can see the full ordinances in my cited references below. The bottom line on the legality of letting a cat or dog run free is that it is illegal, and you could (keyword ‘could’) be charged with a misdemeanor.

What are the punishments for a misdemeanor in MN? 609.02 Subd. 3.Misdemeanor. ‘Misdemeanor’ means a crime for which a sentence of not more than 90 days or a fine of not more than $1,000, or both, may be imposed. (2) Now, we can all agree that some of our furry friends can be quite the elaborate escape artists, so do not confuse the Houdini’s of the pet world with irresponsible owners. An escaped pet is simply that, an escapee.

Ok, so, it being illegal is not enough of a reason to keep your pet restrained, perhaps the dangers of the real world are. According to information on Americanhumane. org, (3) an organization dedicated to the safety, welfare and well-being of animals for more than 100 years, there are a plethora of dangers to allowing cats to roam free. American Humane, or the Humane Society, is the same group that monitors and certifies TV shows and movies with the “no animals were harmed in the creation of this film” statement in the credits.

Allowing cats to roam free has health concerns. First being deadly feline diseases such as feline leukemia, feline AIDS, Feline Infectious Peritonitis, feline distemper and upper respiratory infections. There is also a potential for non-deadly, but costly and painful parasites such as fleas, ticks, ear mites, gastrointestinal worms or ringworm. Ringworm is one that can actually be passed on to humans just through contact with the cat.

According to their publication, if you decide to let your cat outside: 1. Protect your kitty from other cats. Keep them on a leash or secured in a cage or other confined space where she can’t get out (and other cats can’t get in).

2. Make sure an adult supervises your kitty’s outdoor time to ensure strays cannot come into contact with them.

3. Take them to the veterinarian at least once every year for lifesaving vaccines, as well as parasite screening and treatment.

Safety needs to be the number one concern for cats that are allowed to venture outside, especially in a river community like Hastings. Raptors such as eagles and hawks, have a high population along the river. Raptors venture several miles from their nests, and many have been seen past Coborn’s.

Other safety threats exist -coyotes and dogs, waterways, passenger and commercial vehicles and people all pose threats to cats running free.

According to Hastings Police Chief David Wilske, “This is a pretty broad topic, but we do respond to animal at large complaints on a regular basis. Generally, the citizens call about dogs at large and if we can’t determine an owner, we transport the animal to the Humane Society in Red Wing. This can get fairly expensive for the owners. HPD does not handle stray cats. Members of the community that call in after locating a cat are encouraged to bring them to a local shelter.”

Learn more about animal control in your community: https://www.hastingsmn.gov/city-government/city-departments/ police-department/services/animal-control Your feline friend may be immune from incarceration by the local gumshoes, but it may not be immune to someone else bringing them to the clink on their own.

“But MY cat is not harming anyone, so, what is the big deal?”

Well, cats do these things because of instinct. 1. Cats are hunters. They can and will track and kill small animals. Sometimes those animals are pests like mice and squirrels, other times they are not, like birds or bats. If the timing is wrong, and your cat kills a mouse that recently paid a visit to a poison dispenser designed to kill mice, your cat could also end up severely ill or dead. According to the American Bird Conservancy, cats are the number one threat to birds.

“Predation by domestic cats is the number-one direct, human-caused threat to birds in the United States and Canada. In the United States alone, outdoor cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds every year. Although this number may seem unbelievable, it represents the combined impact of tens of millions of outdoor cats. Each outdoor cat plays a part.” (4) 2. Cats will urinate or defecate where they need to when they need to. Sometimes, that’s in your neighbor’s flower bed or their kids’ sandbox. Not only is it gross and unsanitary, but it can also spread disease to humans.

3. They can be a general nuisance: Late night cat calls, being on property they do not belong on like vehicles or backyards, teasing dogs that are defending their own property which causes them to bark excessively or even chase the cat. These are all things that can cause headaches in the neighborhood.

Cats and dogs share a common requirement in Hastings. Both need to be vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian for rabies within six months of birth. The paperwork provided by the vet then needs to be filed with the City of Hastings.

Dogs carry one additional paperwork requirement; they must also be licensed with the City of Hastings.

Of course, the city ordinance on dogs is much more descriptive and encompasses a lot. Primarily because one dangerously aggressive dog can cause a lot more physical harm than a dangerously aggressive cat can.

The bottom line here is pretty simple. Yes, cats and dogs make great pets, and we have to do our part to be great pet owners. We need to keep our pets safe as we would children, it is our job to make sure they are not harmed and are not harming others. The hope with this article is to bring to light that cats and dogs, if left to wander free, can disrupt and damage native wildlife and the lives of humans living in this wonderful city.

Citations for the story:

(1) https://www.hastingsmn.gov/city-government/citycharter-ordinances (2) https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/609.02 (3) https://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/indoor-cats-vs-outdoor-cats/ (4) https://abcbirds.org/program/cats-indoors/cats-andbirds/

November 9, 2022