Waconia passes ordinance changes requiring leashes for cats

On the shores of Lake Waconia, there are plenty of people taking their dogs out for a walk.

But soon, their canine companions will not be the only domestic pets required to be on a leash when they are off their owner's property.

"I am for it. I am not really a cat lover but I don't see a ton of cats roaming around," said Waconia resident Tina Fortwengler.

On Monday night, the Waconia City Council amended an ordinance that regulates dogs to include cats as well.

Cat owners will now be obligated to leash their animals when they are out in public, contain them to their property with a fence or leash and clean up any pet waste their feline friends leave in parks or someone else's yard.

"We're just responding to concerns residents have. It seems fairly common sense for owners to keep and maintain their animals in a safe manner and not disturb others. To us, it's just common sense," said Waconia City Administrator Shane Finerman.

City officials say the change is aimed at cat owners who allow their pets to roam freely around their neighborhoods.

Officials say other communities in the area have similar cat leash laws.

"We want animal owners to be responsible and the expectation is that they are responsible. To not let them roam freely or disturb the neighbors or other animals within the neighborhood. So this is what it hopefully will accomplish," said Finerman.

Residents we talked to seemed to be in favor of the change.

"I think it's probably a good idea for the cat's sake and for other people who might come across the cat," said Waconia resident Jeff Schultz.

"Yes. If you are going to have them, I think they should be under the same laws as other pets," said Fortwengler.

Cats will also be required to have something like a collar or microchip that can be used to easily identify them.

The changed ordinance will take effect once it's published, most likely next week.

Alley Cat Allies, a nonprofit that advocates for humane treatment of cats, has spoken out again cat leash laws in the past. In a letter to the city council on Monday night, the group wrote, in part:

"We want Waconia to know that dogs and cats are very different animals with very different relationships to people and our communities. Cats cannot be slapdash inserted into laws tailored to dog-related concerns.

"Laws requiring cats to be leashed are ineffective, impossible to enforce, and incompatible with TNR, the only humane and effective approach to community cats. If Waconia agrees to a leash requirement for cats, it will only result in cats being impounded and killed and/or the penalization of compassionate Waconia residents spending their own time, energy, and money to care for community cats.

"Under a leash law, any cat not wearing a leash outdoors is a visible target. There is no reliable way to distinguish between a community cat, an owned cat allowed outdoors, and an indoor-only cat who is unintentionally outdoors. All of these cats will therefore be at risk, along with the people who care for them."