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Helping the hoarders

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The first time Missy Wilkins came home with a stray cat, her father, Jon, grudgingly acquiesced to its permanent residency in the Wilkins’ household.

“There’s tears,” he said. “So you say, ‘Oh yeah, I guess we can keep it,’ and pretty soon you got four cats running around.”

Wilkins, who is also a Ward 2 councilmember, is not the kind of man whose heart goes to mush at the sight of a kitty. In fact, the four feline members of the Wilkins family are now three, and the goal, he told the other members of the Public Safety Committee last week, “is no cats.”

But if Missy Wilkins’ infatuation with all things cute and cuddly may only aggravate her father, such infatuations can grow troubling when they become obsessive. Animal Control Director Ed Franceschina told the Public Safety Committee that earlier this year his department came across a man who kept between 20 and 30 cats in his trailer. The home was riddled with holes through which the cats entered and exited as they pleased. As for the condition of the rest of the trailer, Franceschina simply said, “Don’t ask.”

However, Franceschina added, “He had great intentions, but he couldn’t take care of them. Consequently, they were sick, they were not in good shape and so the vast majority had a bad ending for them.”

As such, Franceschina is proposing City Council adopt a limit: five cats per house, with only one allowed to keep its reproductive organs intact. (If your cat has kittens, that’s okay for up to four months). Council hosts a public hearing about the ordinance Dec. 22.

While Franceschina made clear that five is an arbitrary number—“If the city council wants to make it two or six, I don’t care,” he said—he’s hopeful some limit will help avoid situations like the one at the local trailer. He simply wants to give Animal Control the ability to protect the animals, the occupant and the community members who, like Wilkins, may not be feline fanatics.

For his part, Wilkins stopped one member of the media as he left the meeting and asked to clarify his earlier statements.

“You know,” he said somewhat sheepishly, “I kinda like those cats.”

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