Animals Find Relief, But Neighbor Objects

The Scene: County currents and undercurrents

October 03, 1990|By Donna E. Boller

Never mind whatever's on the tube. For the sheer human drama of man's relationship to man and beast, you can't beat an evening with the Howard County Animal Matters Hearing Board.

The board hears appeals from citations issued by the county animal control division.

The citations, which carry fines, are issued for assorted crimes and misdemeanors that animal residents of the county are charged with committing against human residents.

Which brings us to the case of the alleged cat theft, flower bed and yard violations heard by the board last month.

The complainant, an Elkridge resident, charged that a gray cat had been using her garden as a public restroom, and a dog resembling a German shepherd had been seeking similar relief on her lawn.

She didn't know who owned the cat, she said, but she had seen it return next door after using the facilities. And the dog, caught in the act of lawn abuse one night by her car's headlights as she pulled into the driveway, looked like the next door neighbor's German shepherd.

One of the board members asked if the cat was a long-haired or short-haired breed.

"Well, I don't know what you call a long-haired or a short-haired. It was just a gray cat."

Did she have a photo of the accused cat?

"No, but I've got a picture of my dead plants," she said, offering the photo into evidence.

Testifying for the defense, the neighbor said he owned a neutered gray tomcat. However, he said, the cat had been stolen some time ago by the complainant's daughter's boyfriend.

The gray cat was held hostage for four months, the neighbor said. When it was either released or managed a daring daylight escape -- it was not clear from his testimony how the cat regained its freedom -- it returned home. The complainant may have seen the cat leaving her yard on its exodus from captivity, the neighbor suggested.

The neighbor said both the accused cat and his pepper-colored cat live indoors, although the gray tomcat occasionally gets out. In answer to a board member's question, he testified that the two cats share a litter box at home.

He said the German shepherd lives in the back yard, but sometimes climbs the fence for a brief getaway.

A board member asked the how high the fence is.

"Six feet," said the owner.

"Six feet, and the dog just climbs it?" the board member asked.

"Yes," the owner replied.

Nobody suggested that a dog with this kind of talent should have had the starring role opposite Jim Belushi in "K-9." Instead, board member Carolyn "Nicky" Ratliff advised the owner to discourage the canine escape artist with an electrified fence.

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