Woman Takes a Swipe at Cat Law

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cats without leashes and a neighbor with a gripe pushed Chrissi Fernandez into action against Glendale's pet leash law.

The longtime Glendale resident and her six cats had been living peacefully in her Milford Street home until a neighbor complained that Fernandez had too many felines. In August, Fernandez received her first warning that she was violating the city's leash law.

Glendale, as well as other neighboring cities, requires all animals--including cats--be leashed when outdoors.

After Fernandez received a second warning in March, she fought back in hopes of getting cats exempted. She collected 200 petition signatures, and on May 22, the City Council decided Glendale cats may roam free, noting that the ordinance is "simply unenforceable" when it comes to felines.

"It's pretty impractical," said Glendale City Manager James Starbird. "Cats by their very nature are roaming animals."

The revised ordinance will be reviewed at the council's June 26 meeting.

Other cities--including Torrance, Glendora, Long Beach and Los Angeles--have leash laws on the books, but they are either seldom enforced or exclude cats.

Pasadena requires that dogs and pot-bellied pigs be leashed, but it does not attempt to restrain cats.

Burbank's leash law does not exclude cats, officials said.

"For most people, you simply cannot put cats on a leash," said Leslie Eppick, executive director of the Glendale Humane Society, which operates the city's animal shelter. "Being curious by nature, they do tend to leave the yard. You call your dog and he comes. A cat will just take a message and get back to you later."

People Seemed Unaware of the Law

While collecting signatures for her petition, Fernandez said most people she talked to were unaware of the law.

"The most common comments I got were, 'Is this a joke?' or 'This is the dumbest thing I ever heard,' " she said. "People didn't even know this law existed."

Standing in her neatly landscaped yard--a couple of cats stretched out on the cool concrete of a shaded porch--Fernandez said she was stunned to receive the warnings.

"I've lived here for 10 years, and this is the first time anyone complained," she said.

The neighbor who lodged the complaint could not be reached for comment.

Cats kept indoors or leashed generally live about twice as long as free-roamers, Eppick said. Indoor cats have a life expectancy of 15 years or more, while domestic cats usually do not survive beyond eight years outdoors, often falling victim to coyotes--or Chryslers.

That's why Glendale resident Marlene Roth trained her cat Peake to accept a leash. He is the third cat Roth has leash-trained.

On a recent stroll in a Glendale park with Peake, Roth said, "They don't walk like dogs. They don't heel or stay on your left side."

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