With public pressure mounting and cat lovers threatening political action, the Santa Ana City Council Monday night dropped a plan to limit each household to three cats. On a 4-3 vote, council members tentatively agreed to set the limit at six.
A final vote will come Aug 4. when City Atty. Edward J. Cooper returns with a rewritten ordinance.
"I think raising this thing to six will take care of 99% of the problems," said Councilman Wilson B. Hart. "More than six, I think you're entering the realm of zookeeper. Beyond that, you're in Fedorukland."
'The Cat Man'
Hart referred to Michael Fedoruk, also known as "the Cat Man of Santa Ana," who started the ruckus when his neighbors complained to the city about the 35 to 50 cats in his North Townley Street home.
By Monday, those opposed to the proposed law had submitted a petition with about 1,100 signatures. In addition, City Hall workers logged about 255 telephone calls, with 198 firmly opposed to the limit.
In the council chambers, residents waved signs that read, "Cats control rats, who controls the City Council?" "Save Our Pets" and "Is this U.S. or U.S.S.R.?" One woman burst into tears while reading a prayer for animals.
Since the law received preliminary approval from the council two weeks ago (members Robert W. Luxembourger and Patricia A. McGuigan voted against it), cat lovers have formed a group called People for Pets. The group began circulating flyers and petitions and placed a half-page ad in the Orange County Register that prompted the flood of calls to City Hall.
Several council members also received calls at their homes and offices. The outcry was so loud, Hart said, that one might have thought the council had proposed mass "felinicide."
Victoria Reinking of Animal Pro-Life, a group that works to place stray and abandoned animals in homes, called for the council to drop any plans for a limit. "It's not right to take away the rights of many because of one alleged infraction," she said.
Ruth Riddle of the Orange County Animal Assistance League echoed Reinking's argument and said that Fedoruk's case should be handled individually. "He needs counseling, much like a parent who allows his children to run wild in the neighborhood," she said.
A more emotional plea came from Laurie Marine, who spoke as an owner of two cats who sympathizes with residents who have more. She read a prayer imploring a blessing for all "God's creatures" that was accompanied by a flood of tears midway through the recital.
Santa Ana is one of the few cities without a limit on cats, noted Councilman John Acosta. He said many of the petition signers gave addresses outside the city, and he theorized that Santa Ana is a dumping ground for unwanted pets. "We've got the street people, we've got the missions, now we've got the cats," he said.
Luxembourger and McGuigan both said they saw problems in enforcing the ordinance, especially in terms of proving who owns a cat. Luxembourger argued for some less stringent approach to the issue, calling the proposed limit "a damned shotgun approach." Vice Mayor P. Lee Johnson also voted against the ordinance, saying he felt that Kish should file a lawsuit against Fedoruk to solve the problem rather than come to the city for action.
There haven't been any problems with cats in recent memory, said City Atty. Cooper, noting that the city has limits on other animals such as dogs and roosters. "We've had problems with woolly monkeys, pigs and roosters," he said.