An Associated Press story that has made the rounds reports of a 67 year old woman who was reported to the police by two of her neighbors for having some 80 cats in her home. The basic framework of the story, which didn’t supply much detail, had the police potentially charging her with a crime and ordered her to reduce the number from 80 to 5. Few details other than these were provided with the original news release.
But there is more to the story, and the missing background actually reveals that the police are working with her to systematically reduce the size of the herd over a period of weeks. The woman, Debra Perryman, had started her collection a few years ago, and when she saw how adorable and affectionate they were, she decided to keep them – and they continued to breed. The more they bred, the more she fed them, buying as much as 50 pounds of kibble every other day to keep their hunger pangs at bay.
But these are not just any ordinary house cat. They are Bengals, a sought after breed that can get anywhere from $1,000 to as much as $10,000 per cat. Ms. Perryman is sitting on a potential goldmine, something she considered over the years. But she had not followed up on her common sense notion, so the cats continued to fill up the house. Yet this was the first time in the 3 years she has been raising the cats that someone took noticed and decided to bring in law enforcement.
Neighbors called the police because they could smell the cats from the sidewalk outside of the house and didn’t think it was a positive thing for the neighborhood or their property values. The cats themselves weren’t making any stink about living there. They were well-behaved and quite content to stay on Perryman’s property. But when you consider there were only two litter boxes inside the home, it raises questions of how healthy the living environment was for her. The police investigated not so much for the number of cats, which there is no ordinance limiting the number of cats a person can have, but because of the potential health hazard the cats posed to the woman.
Upon arriving and talking to Ms. Perryman, an agreement was worked out where the police and others would help her pare down the herd to a manageable number. That number varies depending on who you talk to, but it is between 5 and 20. The goal is to achieve that reduction over a reasonable period of time. There is currently no legal action being taken against her, but the fact that it is being threatened makes more than a few people uncomfortable.
One problem with this solution is, that as Ms. Perryman is sitting on potentially $more than $500,000 or more in cat sales, is she being deprived of her right to earn a living by being forced to get rid of the cats instead of waiting for buyers. Another dimension to the problem is that she will almost definitely be losing income because of the “recommendation” to let the police help her cull down the herd. At 67, it seems clear she can use the extra income.
What if Ms. Perryman decides she wants to continue to breed the cats but keep their numbers at what she considers a reasonable level, and sell them for profit as part of her own business? She seems quite capable of minding her own business, as the cats are reported to be happy and healthy. Can the police enforce a law that doesn’t exist, apart from the potential health risks for her? Will a new law be required to constrain the number of pets a person can own on their own property? Will this new law cover goldfish andhamsters as well as cats and dogs?
We will wait to see how this cat tale straightens itself out, but animal lovers around the world can understand why this story is worthy of notice. It tries to find a happy ending between the rights of neighbors and the rights of a home and cat owner. Stay tuned to see how everyone is made happy with the proposed settlement.