Suzanne Leff and I have had a heated discussion this afternoon regarding the issues of animal hoarding, stray cats, and an Association’s related responsibilities and powers.  We were inspired by this story, in which a "cat lady" defeated her HOA’s notices of violation.  The cat lady provided food and shelter to stray cats, and had been doing so for several years – with the Association’s knowledge and consent.

The Association then determined that the stray cats she fed and sheltered constituted a nuisance and that she was feeding wildlife in violation of the covenants.  In addition, she’d erected a small feeding structure in violation of the covenants.  After multiple hearings, the Association backed down from its position, creating a victory for feral cat lovers everywhere.

Suzanne Leff is somewhat heartless and thinks the Association should not have permitted the cat lady to continue her feline-atarian activities.  Gina’s primary concern is whether the cats have assets that could be collected in the event the cat lady fails to pay her assessments.

I take a different perspective.  This is yet another case of an overbearing HOA dictating what owners can and can’t do on their own property.  The cat lady’s actions ultimately save lives, decrease governmental spending on animal shelters, and provide an endless supply of lolcat pictures.

Okay, I kid. I just wanted an excuse to post that picture.  The article does not give the full extent of the cat lady’s cat population, but it’s easy to imagine a pack of cats wandering the streets, intimidating dogs and birds everywhere.  In addition, while our resident animal-feces blogger Molly Foley-Healy is on vacation, I imagine there is a pretty significant issue with cat droppings around the property.  Living in Colorado we know better than to give wild animals free food – it just exacerbates the problem.  The cat lady’s handouts will probably result in even more strays and feral cats in the neighborhood, and this is simply not fair to the other owners. In fact, this is probably what happened to cause the Association to issue the violation notices.

The cat lady is taking actions that are better taken by governmental entities or non-profits.  Places like Recycled Critter Rescue and Max Fund are equipped to take on sick, hungry, and abused animals without placing unreasonable burdens on neighbors.  I have two cats and understand the drive to care for animals that can’t care for themselves.  However, this sort of care is best left to professional organizations.

The association should have maintained its stance and not caved into the pressure to avoid looking like animal-haters.  It is the association’s obligation to enforce covenants for the benefit of all owners, including the owners who would prefer to not worry about hoardes of cats descending on the property, looking for handouts.  As we know, covenant enforcement is often thankless, but it is in the best interests of both the association and the homeless cats in this situation. 

Old Ella Mason keeps cats, eleven at last count,
In her ramshackle house off Somerset Terrace;
People make queries
On seeing our neighbor’s cat-haunt,
Saying: "Something’s addled in a woman who accommodates
That many cats."
—"Ella Mason and Her Eleven Cats" by Sylvia Plath, 1956