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Cat Café Zoning Approved in State College

by on December 03, 2019 12:05 AM

State College Borough Council on Monday approved a zoning amendment that clears the way for a proposed new cat café on West College Avenue.

In September, Sharon Myers requested the amendment to be able to open a cat café at 616 W. College Ave. in the Urban Village zoning district. Like a typical café, it would serve food and beverages such as coffee and tea, but would also have a space for patrons to interact with fully vetted, adoptable cats. Myers plans to work with local animal rescue Pets Come First to obtain the cats and facilitate adoptions to ensure all requirements are met.

Council voted 6-1 to approve the amendment, with Janet Engeman voting against. 

The Urban Village district allowed for cafés, but does not specifically permit overnight animal boarding. The amendment approved by council permits a maximum of 10 cats at a time on the premises and they must be boarded during off-business hours. All cats must be obtained from animal rescue organization, be spayed or neutered, and have received all required vaccinations prior to being permitted in the café.

Litter boxes and cat food must be stored in separate quarters from the areas in which food and beverages are prepared or served for patrons, according to the ordinance.

Health Officer Brian O'Donnell made several recommendations related to health and food code issues, but Planning Director Ed LeClear said it was determined they are all already addressed through other ordinances and state regulations, or can be addressed through less complicated health ordinances.

Council approved a separate resolution endorsing the health recommendations.

At a previous meeting Councilwoman Theresa Lafer said she was concerned college students would adopt and then abandon cats. On Monday, however, she said she was confident in the vetting process Myers and Pets Come First would have in place.

"I know they are very careful to make sure young adopters not only get permission from their landlords but also get permission from their parents, because many of the abandoned pets in the community… are from young men and women who really wanted a pet and their parents looked at them like they were insane when they came home for the summer and said 'you can’t have that,'" Lafer said.

During a public hearing prior to the vote, Patton Township resident and Penn State faculty member Mary Sellers said the rescue organization already has "a very strong vetting process in place to weed out those who would be swayed by the cuteness of an animal and would not be ready to commit to a long term commitment that a cat would take."

Sellers added that their vetting process is stricter for college students than for families. She also said that many studies have shown "the effect of animals and their ability to calm students has been proven time and time again," which is why Penn State and other universities bring in dogs and cats for students to interact with during finals weeks. The cafe, she said, could provide that kind of service on a more permanent basis.

While she wasn't concerned about Myers' café, Lafer asked for an adoption vetting standard for such cafés be discussed at a future work session because the zoning amendment will make it possible for other cat cafés to open in the district.

"Quite honestly I am relatively well-assured that Ms. Myers will do an excellent job with this," Lafer said. "She might not be the only person to have a cat café in that district over time. I would like to have these [health and vetting regulations] as part of the record for anyone coming in the future."



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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