A Concord woman who grew angry about roaming cats killing off songbirds at her back-yard feeders is trying once again to curb trespassing by nuisance felines.
Fellow residents shot down Lydia Lodynsky’s proposal calling for controls on cats last spring, but the issue is on track to come up for another vote at annual Town Meeting in April. Lodynsky has submitted a citizen’s petition article that would prohibit cats from going into other people’s yards without the property owner’s permission.
Lodynsky said cats are no longer trespassing in her Bedford Street yard, but she still thinks the issue is a townwide problem that needs addressing.
“I’m not doing this as a personal issue anymore, but a lot of people are still having these problems and I can empathize with them,’’ she said.
Lodynsky has submitted two petitions for the Town Meeting warrant. One would create a bylaw designed to discourage “certain roaming behaviors related to pet cats.’’ The other would require residents to register their cats with the town, just as dogs must be licensed each year.
The proposed bylaw would encourage cat owners to keep their pets indoors or within the boundaries of their property, and states that cats are not allowed to “disturb the peace of neighbors or private property, or endanger the safety of any person or pet.’’ However, the proposal also says that cats can roam elsewhere as long as the property’s owner does not complain.
Lodynsky stressed that it is not a leash law.
“If the neighbor is in agreement and has no issues with the cats roaming, then there is no issue,’’ Lodynsky said. “It’s only if someone thinks it’s a nuisance. I think it’s very fair.’’
If there is a complaint, the first step would be for the town’s animal control officer to contact the cat’s owner. A $25 fine would be issued after the second offense, and a $50 fine after the third. After the fourth offense, animal control would work with the pet’s owner to solve the problem, Lodynsky said.
Concord resident Nick Pappas said he agrees that cats should not be wandering around town, and met with Lodynsky last year to discuss her concerns. But Pappas said it is an emotional issue that is not easily resolved, especially by government regulation.
Pappas is a cat owner but keeps his pets inside after losing outdoor cats over the years.
“The issue is really complicated once you start digging into it,’’ Pappas said. “People tend to get polarized and not see the other view. There’s not an obvious way to go forward.’’
Pappas said he thinks educating cat owners about the dangers of letting them outside is the best answer.
“I don’t think legislating or mandating anything helps further the discussion,’’ he said. “I’m supportive of discussions, education, and factual information.’’
The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends that cats stay indoors.
The organization says that the risks to cats include traffic, and altercations with other cats and larger wildlife that could cause serious injury, disease, or parasitic infections.
It is unclear whether other communities have bylaws restricting cats from roaming, but some Massachusetts communities, including Belmont and Watertown, require cat owners to license their pets.
Lodynsky’s second petition would require cat owners to pay an annual $10-per-household registration fee, with the cost set at $40 for households with cats that have not been spayed or neutered. She said the system would help keep track of cats in town and make it easier to locate the owners of lost cats.
Resident Lora Venesy said she thinks registration is the more important of the two issues because it would help educate cat owners about vaccination and spaying and neutering. She said it could also raise some revenue for the town.
Venesy, who keeps her two cats indoors, said she also supports the roaming bylaw.
“This is a place where wildlife is important to a lot of people,’’ Venesy said.
Even though her cat-related petitions were rejected by Town Meeting voters last year, Lodynsky thinks they will have a better shot this year. She said the wording is simpler, and now Concord has an animal control officer to handle any complaints.
Town Manager Chris Whelan said the Legislature passed a law last summer requiring all towns to have an animal control officer. Previously, Concord had an employee who handled dog-related complaints.
Whelan said an animal control officer is trained to euthanize an injured or sick animal such as a rabid raccoon, and could also respond to cat complaints, but he is not aware of any being made.
Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.