I thought last week when I heard the tail end of a CBC Radio program discussing cat bylaws in St. John’s that my hearing had stalled or the broadcaster had hit her head off the desk.
Neither was the case. What I was hearing was law.
Cats are not allowed outside unless leashed. I checked out the animal regulation bylaws and discovered further that “No owner shall suffer, permit, allow or for any reason have his or her animal, bark, howl, or meow excessively so as to become a nuisance in the opinion of the officer.” (City bylaw, 2008)
Now, what next? A cat that meows? A baby that cries? Whoever would tolerate such nuisances?
Should we impose legislation that forbids children from crying in public places? Anyone who is at Costco on a Saturday afternoon and hears a bawling youngster could assert their consumer rights to shop without being tormented.
People who are on an overseas flight and are annoyed by a wailing youngster could well be within their rights to champion the prohibition of children on public transportation, unless they are wearing a muzzle.
There used to be tolerance
The degree of lunacy is the same. When did townies decide they need the full force of the law to regulate common sense and tolerance?
It used to be Newfoundlanders had minds of their own and could manage to deal with interpersonal conflict.
I remember my grandmother being continuously tormented by kids climbing into her yard during crab apple season.
Should she have been within her rights to call Child Protection and have these kids picked up and dealt with by state agents?
Or is it part and parcel of living in a metropolitan area to tolerate noise and roaming cats and children?
I’ve been away from this beloved province now for almost a decade. The longing to return is in large part due to Newfoundlanders’ level of tolerance, goodwill and common sense.
Instead, the level of complacency and need to have our un/common sense legislated is astounding.
What will be next?
The banning of clotheslines in the city?
Maybe we should puts all the meowing cats, barking dogs and crying children down behind the fence at the harbour front.
That way, they wouldn’t even need leashes and could roam free behind the wall.
The alternative would be akin to Hnimal Services’ three strikes legislation: your cat is apprehended and owners fined on the first and second count. The third strike is euthanasia.
If we’ve come to an era where interpersonal relations need to be legislated to us, where then is our national organization for the Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals to pick up for the outdoor cats that like to steal away every once in a while and frolic in the trees and grass?
Who will legislate on their behalf?
It used to be that Newfoundlanders had more of a European sensibility rather than an Upper Canadian Commonwealth mindset.
Maybe if we had joined Europe instead, cats would be free to meow and roam in open spaces along with children who might not be wailing as they stroke their feline friends and provide comfort and humanity to one another.
It’s the slipperiest of slopes if we continue sleepwalking in this city and having our morality regulated for us.
Donna Maidment writes from St. John's.