When "cat-house legislation" came before the Baltimore County planning board last week, it drew nearly 3,000 howls from animal lovers, and one moderately anti-cat speech from a Parkville man who lives next door to an animal shelter.
The cat-house saga began in September, when Council Chairman William A. Howard IV of Parkville -- responding to a constituent's complaint -- introduced a resolution asking the planning board to limit the number of cats allowed per household.
But the planning board staff recommended against such legislation, saying the county code already covers any potential cat problems.
While the county puts a limit on dogs -- three per household -- no limit applies to how many cats are permissible as long as they're not being sold for a profit, said Hillorie Richman, head of the legislative section of the office of planning and zoning. (For-profit kennels and catteries are regulated.)
Sandra Miller of Ellicott City, a representative of Animal Rescue Inc., which operates the Parkville shelter, urged the board to accept the staff's recommendation and leave things as they are.
Ms. Miller told the board that the Animal Rescue group has more than 2,891 members in Baltimore County.
A limit on the number of cats allowed at a house would "force the closure of our cat-adoption program in Baltimore County," she said. That program has existed legally as a community service in the 6th District for more than seven years, she said.
Mr. Howard asked for the limit on the number of cats in response to a complaint by William Rush, who lives in the 3300 block of Putty Hill Avenue -- next door to the Animal Rescue shelter.
Addressing the board, Mr. Rush said: "I live alongside what you people are all laughing about: the cat house. . . . Their agents say there are 45 cats there at all times.
"It's a residential neighborhood. You can't have chickens; you can't have cows; you can't have pigs. Here we have a house that no one lives in except cats."
Ms. Miller said the displaced cats would not have homes if the Parkville shelter were closed. In 1990 alone, she said, "3,875 cats and kittens were euthanized" because homes couldn't be found for them in the county. She also submitted a copy of a report by the county's animal control office, showing no violations at the Parkville house.
Although the staff recommended no limit on cats, board member Alfred E. Clasing Jr. said he wanted further discussion of the matter, which now is scheduled for the March 5 meeting.