I’m writing in response to the Nov. 10 Barre City Council discussion concerning revisions to the city’s animal ordinance, focusing my comments on common household pets, cats and dogs.

As for cats: I understand that an exemption previously provided to cats has been taken away. It’s always helpful to think about the unintended consequences of a public policy. Here are a few:

— You would create a new, significant burden on our Police Department/animal warden that is so large, it will likely be deemed unachievable.

— You would create circumstances that will lead to more cats being abandoned and placed in shelters.

— You would change a lifestyle that is required by some Barre City residents, who have middle-aged or older animals that cannot be retrained. This may cause people to evaluate whether they could reside in Barre City (current or prospective homeowners).

What ever happened to the old-fashioned approach involving public outreach and assistance? It’d be helpful to have a public campaign that informs people about the various benefits of keeping cats indoors. Additionally, I am sure we could assemble a small fund (supported by private donors) that would assist with cat spaying and neutering if there are particular households that have significant populations of cats.

As for the odd demonization of cats represented in the article by David Delcore, let’s be clear: The rapid decline in songbird populations is primarily a result of habitat destruction (deforestation, global warming and other human impacts). So for example, people who order their wares online, have shipments to their doorsteps and who avoid walking downtown for their purchases are contributing much more to the decline of bird populations than “Fluffy.”

Additional issues here in Barre City that contribute to songbird population decline are: unnaturally large populations of squirrels (which steal eggs during nesting); population increase of large, non-native competing birds (which have been attracted lately to the salt-based solutions used on the streets); and people not cleaning their bird feeders often enough to prevent the spread of infections (myself included here).

I have had housecats during my adult life because it’s healthier and safer for the cats. (Whether its exposure to feline leukemia or roads and cars, it’s better to keep them inside.)

As for dogs:

Keep it simple. Whether we are speaking of parks or cemeteries: Keep dogs on leashes and clean up after they defecate. Let’s allow our community members to enjoy the beautiful areas in our city, take pleasure in social comradery (post-COVID-19), and provide “Neighborhood Watch-style” protections for our world class, priceless statuary.

Sue Higby lives in Barre City.

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