NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. (WHTM) – An ordinance seeking to ban some exotic animals and limit the number of cats and dogs any one person can have was tabled Wednesday evening after dozens of residents spoke out in opposition.
The ordinance — introduced to address a cat hoarding situation in the borough, according to councilor Jack Murray — attracted a crowd of more than 100 people to the council’s monthly meeting.
“A person could have 10 dogs and you’d never know what they had,” said one woman, choking up as she spoke. ” It makes more sense to concentrate on the animals who present a nuisance instead of a blanket ordinance that affects all pet owners.”
She argued that placing limits on pet numbers does nothing to address actual nuisance animals.
The ordinance would prohibit poisonous or venomous animals of any kind and would limit a pet owner from having more than four dogs or four cats over 6 months old, as well as any combination thereof, up to six in total.
Darin Cox was there on behalf of the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs. He said attempting to address nuisance animals by setting “arbitrary” numbers for responsible animal owners isn’t useful.
“We would much rather see much stronger enforcement of existing humane laws, cruelty laws, and perhaps strengthening the leash law,” Cox said.
“It’s not worded very well. I do feel it needs a lot more clarification,” said Mary Ellen Hettinger, who keeps snakes and bearded dragons.
Hettinger lives in Wormleysburg but was a resident of New Cumberland for decades. She’s worried that if the ordinance passes in one municipality, it could influence surrounding communities.
She’s also concerned the council isn’t qualified to issue special exotic permits, as the ordinance would require.
“I would question borough council’s knowledge as to what qualifies as an exotic animal,” Hettinger said. “I would question how do they determine that? How do they determine each person that needs a permit and whether that person’s gonna be accepted or denied a permit?”
Murray said it’s council’s job to introduce proposals that address resident complaints.
“We react to people in the town who want to know what are you gonna do about this?” Murray said, adding that the ordinance has been in the works for some time.”We didn’t have any ordinance that would handle the problem that came up.”
The issue will be taken up again at the council’s meeting next month. The council has agreed to allow some pigs, despite initially banning them.
You can read the full ordinance here.