Many thanks to Julie!
Resolution to a May 2005 case:
Judge favors landlord in city feral-cat case
Rules property owner must be given certificate of compliance
The Daily Star, Oneonta New York - 06/01/06
ONEONTA — A state Supreme Court judge who ruled in favor of a city property owner in a dispute over a cat shelter on Fairview Street said the city’s actions were "arbitrary and capricious."
In his decision dated May 9, Judge Kevin M. Dowd ordered the city to grant Nicholas Knoll a certificate of substantial compliance for his apartment building at 43 Fairview St., where a tenant has been operating a cat shelter for the past few years with the help of the Susquehanna Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Knoll’s building failed a housing inspection July 30, 2003, but he was denied a certificate of substantial compliance by the Code Enforcement Office in March 2005 after making repairs on the building.
The reason for the denial, as described in a letter from the Code Enforcement Office, was because of the cat shelter on the property.
The denial was upheld May 23, 2005 by a 4-1 vote by the Housing Board of Appeals.
However, Dowd, ruling on an Article 78 proceeding initiated by Knoll’s attorney Delice Seligman of Kingston, said there were no specific municipal codes being violated by the cat shelter and therefore no reason not to grant a certificate of substantial compliance by Knoll. Article 78 proceedings are civil actions against governments or government officers.
"Instead of reading the applicable codes and determining if they applied to the feeding and sheltering of cats, in this case it was determined that the feeding and sheltering of cats was not appropriate and then support for that position was sought," Dowd said.
Dowd cites an April 15, 2005, letter from the Code Enforcement Office to Knoll: "The use of premises at 43 Fairview St. as a cat feeding center and cat shelter is dangerous and because it is dangerous it is against the law."
Dowd also weighed in on the city’s lack of a specific municipal code dealing with cat shelters.
"Anyone familiar with zoning and housing regulations knows how specific they are. This specificity provides everyone with defined guidelines. In this case, no one reading the cited sections could have any idea what feeding and sheltering of cats is permitted and what is prohibited," Dowd said.
"The inappropriate application of regulations can only be characterized as arbitrary and capricious. It is unfortunate that a situation had arisen that was not envisioned and addressed by the various applicable codes."
The original news article from May 2005:SSPCA: Woman should continue feeding cats
Oneonta resident’s landlord says he’s willing to close shelter
Oneonta Daily Star, New York - 05/26/05
But there is no prohibition against Self owning the cats, one of Self’s supporters said.
The city code sets no limitations on the number of cats a person may have and only requires that cats that go outside be spayed or neutered.
"She has to feed the cats. They’re her cats," Patty Timoney, executive director of the Susquehanna Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said. "It would be illegal for her to not feed the cats."
Timoney cited state Agriculture and Markets law regarding the feeding of animals.
The Housing Board reasoned that a cat feeding station or a cat shelter are not authorized uses of the property under the city zoning code. The board is also concerned about general safety issues involving stray or feral cats congregating in a residential area.
The SSPCA and the Greater Oneonta Fund for Animal Responsibility are lobbying to preserve the cat shelter and say Self has done a service to the community by removing strays from the breeding population.