On Wednesday the 19th, as we were scurrying about getting ready to catch a train to spend Christmas with family, there was a firm knock on our door. There was the Animal Control officer, saying there had been neighbor complaints about our cats. We have too many, and we need to get rid of some, and get licenses for the rest. And we have little time to do so.
Once the initial shock wore off, and we started in on frantic calls and emails to friends and family, came the hurt, the anger. How were we supposed to decide which members of our family we ‘got rid of’? If there were neighborhood concerns, why had no one talked to us? Our cats have been with us for years, are non-breeding (all our cats are fixed) and non-aggressive (except for the occasional hissy fit, or unless you’re a opossum. There’d never been any sign or reports of injury to people or other pets), why the sudden appearance of enforcement? We were already in the process of dealing with some issues we had seen crop up this season, didn’t that count for something?
There is, indeed, a law on the books limiting the number of cats one household can own. But deeper research shows that most cities that have such laws, also have provisions that allow for addressing issues and making allowances; Brier has provisional permits. Shoreline has no limits on indoor cats. Other cities will only enforce if nuisance laws have been repeatedly broken and not resolved. And King County has “Hobby Cattery” licensing, that allow for multiple non-breeding cats, with limitations on outdoor access. All very reasonable, realistic ways of handling cat nuisance problems.
Not so Mountlake Terrace. No quarter was given, no chance to resolve any issues the neighbors were having, no recourse — just make them go, before the end of the year.
We would have been more than happy, more than willing, to work with our neighbors to resolve any issues, from repairing any damage, to creating outdoor runs so that the cats couldn’t access other yards. Our yard has the space, it could have easily been done. If only they had come and spoken to us first. Do they even realize that filing a formal complaint meant not that issues would be addressed, but that animals would be torn from their family? Does the city consider that when they leave no flexibility or options?
As for the licensing, I can count on one hand the number of happily owned (not by us) cats in the neighborhood that actually have collars and licenses; and I am afraid for those cats. Will the city, as part of ensuring that we have re-homed the appropriate number of cats, start rounding up uncollared cats in the neighborhood? Does the city contract with a no-kill shelter like PAWS or NOAH, or will these cats be on borrowed time, their only crime being that they lived near us? Would any attempt be made to inform the neighborhood of the enforcement, or will families be left to wonder where their beloved pets have gone?
Or will those cats be given a free pass, allowed to roam the neighborhood in a state of unlicensed lawlessness, because they aren’t all “owned’”by one household?
Most of Mountlake Terrace is anticipating Christmas. My family, on the other hand, is now spending the Christmas season sick of shock and in tears. Instead of celebrating with friends and family, our time is spent trying to decide which of our furry family will have to go, trying to decide how we’ll explain this to our developmentally disabled daughter who adores them, dreading which of us will get to keep ‘their’ cat, and who’ll have to let go. How do you decide which loved ones are ‘worth’ keeping?
More importantly, how will we assure that these cats, who have been intertwined members of our family, who have been comforts to us in times of sorrow and boon companions, will have families who will love them and cherish them as much as we have.
Merry Christmas, from the heartbroken Hamilton family.