April 26, 2012
CONCORD, Mass. — Someday, perhaps they'll tell stories to schoolchildren of the valiant freedom-fighters gathered at Concord that day, meowing "Don't leash us in!" as they banded together (with some difficulty) to throw off the yoke of tyranny.
Or then again, perhaps the residents of Concord will pass a law that could require outdoor cats to get yoked.
From sanctuary to hunting ground
The Concord Cat Debate originated in Lydia Lodynski’s Bedford Street backyard. When Lodynski moved to the town 3 years ago to care for her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother, she turned her yard into an emotional sanctuary of sorts, complete with a burbling fountain and multiple birdfeeders. After Lodynski’s mother died, she visited her yard to mourn.
But then, Lodynski said, several neighborhood cats started transforming her yard into a hunting ground.
“[One cat] actually got the bluebirds at the birdbath — killed two females,” Lodynski recalled. “We had six bluebirds a year ago coming here — ended up now with one male, because they killed the two females.”
Lodynski said that when she asked her neighbors to restrain their felines, they refused. Now, she’s turned to politics.
Don’t call it a “Leash Law”
This week, Concord Town Meeting will take up Lodynski’s proposal to restrain troublesome cats. It’s been dubbed the “leash law” — but Lodynsky said that’s a misnomer.
“If you can’t keep the cat enclosed or in your yard, and your cat happens to roam in other yards, as long as it doesn’t bother the neighbors there’s no issue,” she said. “I’m not even against roaming cats!”
Still, Lodynsky’s plan would force cat owners to “explore options for containing the cat within … its own own yard” after three complaints. That could mean building a fence, keeping the cat inside or even buying a leash.
Opponents of Lodynsky’s proposal say cats need to roam free. But Lodynsky said most enlightened cat owners keep their animals indoors — and that she has rights of her own.
“It is our property,” Lodynsky argued. “I should have a say as to what happens on our property — and I should have a say to whose pets are allowed on our property."
Which side are you on?
In Concord on Tuesday, reaction to the Lodynsky’s cat plan was subdued.
“If you want to take a cat out on a leash and harness like I do, I don’t see anything wrong with that,” one man said outside Concord Town Hall. “But to make it a law — I have some problems with that.”
“Feral cats can do a lot of damage,” said a second. “They do eat birds as well as mice. So I think it might be a reasonable thing to do."
However, Lodynsky claimed that her cat-control crusade has rubbed some people the wrong way.
“I had neighbors come over,” she said, “and very quietly say, ‘You need to do this in a very slow way. Concord is a very slow town, you know.’”
If Lodynsky gets her way, Concord’s freewheeling cats might have to slow down, too.