How much feline is too much feline in the town of Dudley, Mass.?
The answer: If you have four of the furry four-legged friends without a special license, you've gone too far.
The town made it illegal this week to own more than three cats without getting a $50 residential kennel license. Voters at a town meeting added language to a town bylaw that makes it illegal to own more than three cats without the special license.
The change came in response to a neighborhood feud over the 15 cats owned by Mary Ellen Richards.
The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester reported that one neighbor claimed the cats have ruined his yard. Another neighbor alleged that her 2-year-old daughter contracted Coxsackie virus, also known as hand-foot-and-mouth disease, from a toy or ball that likely came into contact with cat feces.
Richards said all the cats in her care have received veterinary care and are up to date on all their shots. She works with the organization Willy’s Kitty Angels Rescue, which traps feral and stray cats to control the population. Richards takes cats to free clinics to have them spayed or neutered and helps them find foster homes in other towns.
'Worst thing in my life to happen'The town of Dudley has been fining Richards $100 a day for keeping more than three cats at her home, which she has owned since 1997. She recently put her home up for sale, saying she plans to move to a "more cat-friendly community."
"This is the worst thing in my life to happen, this whole thing," she told the Telegram & Gazette.
On the newspaper's Web site, readers' reactions to the news of the new feline limits ranged from enthusiastic approval to scathing ridicule.
"When will we need licenses to have more than three children?" wrote a reader who identified herself as Cat Mommy. "This is stupid. My cats live inside and don't bother anyone. Hope they can sleep at night knowing that some lovely cats will be put to sleep or left outside in the cold now. Shame."
Another reader who supports the new limits wrote: "I fully agree with them having to get a kennel license to have more then three cats. I currently have more then three dogs and in my town I have to have a kennel license for that so why should cats be any different. Especially when cats are allowed to roam free and dogs have to be leashed."
And a reader dubbed "vinca" had this to say: "Once Mary Ellen Richards leaves your town, I seriously doubt anyone will be picking up where she left off regarding trying to manage the feral cat population. Your town will be come overrun with feral cats, which you will (have) brought down on yourselves!!!"