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Have Four or More Cats and Dogs? Then You’re Breaking Avon Lake's Law

City reviewing zoning law that prohibits four or more cats or dogs. Current law says more than three in a residential area is a misdemeanor.

Hundreds of Avon Lake families with four or more cats and dogs are in violation of the city's kennel laws. The city must now decide if the zoning law that prohibits no more than three cats and dogs combined will remain intact, or be changed to accommodate households with more than the allowable number.

Under current law, having four or more cats and dogs makes a building a kennel.

The current zoning ordinance says any lot or premises on which four or more cats or dogs or any combination of, more than four months of age that are housed, groomed, bred, boarded, trained or sold is a kennel, which are only allowed in industrial areas.

Ruth Booher, the city’s zoning administrator, said code violators could be charged with a misdemeanor.  

The issue arose after Booher, received notification that a family had a total of four cats and dogs. Booher, speaking at a Safety Committee meetingMarch 23, said there were no complaints of the animals being two loud or vicious, but instead appeared to generate from a neighbor dispute. 

Booher said she cannot recall ever receiving a complaint about a house harboring too many animals, but the fact remains that many homes, including the house of one Avon Lake councilman, could have an illegal number of pets under current law.

“I think it’s been well established that the way the law is written, there are hundreds of families breaking the law, including our colleague (Councilman) Larry (Meiners), who has two dogs and two cats,” Councilman David Kos said.

Contacted after the meeting, Meiners said he did have two cats and two dogs until recently and now only has one dog. He said he supported a change in the ordinance.

Council will now have to decide whether to increase the allowable number or change the law in another fashion. While there is an option to not include any pet limit, Councilman Tim Rush said that could lead to other problems.

“If you remove it all together, you could end up with a cat house,” he said, referring to a Sheffield Lake woman who was cited multiple times for keeping 90 cats in her house.  

Booher conducted a survey of other communities and found cities' laws ranged from no more than three cats and/or dogs (Westlake) to no more than four of each, for a total of eight (Sheffield and Amhert).

At the meeting, Kos said he would support a limit of four each, for a total of eight, a suggestion supported by other council members.

Contacted on March 28, Booher said council is now leaning toward changing the definition of kennel so it reflects a business, removing the issue of animals of pets. The change would need approval from the city’s planning commission and council. Booher said changes would probably include some of limit on how many cats and dogs are permitted.

 “There would be a restriction on a crazy number of animals,” Booher said.

In the interim, Booher said no citations will be issued for offenders.

 “That would be discretionary enforcement,” she said. “Nuisance laws can take care of problems in the interim.”

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