Manheim Twp woman forced to give away 39 of her 44 cats

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Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is never easy, but a Manheim Township, Lancaster County woman has to do just that — 39 times.

Rhonda Goss and her fiance Tom Groff have 44 cats. They learned last month they can only keep five, after someone contacted Manheim Township about the number of cats in the home.

Manheim Township has an ordinance that allows just five cats, dogs or a mix of both per household.

When asked how difficult it will be to choose just five, Groff said, “It’s impossible.”

Added a tearful Goss, “You try and pick five.”

By all accounts, the cats are very well cared for. Goss’ veterinarian, Dr. Fayez Awad of Dr. Awad’s Animal Hospital in Elizabethtown, said she’s a responsible pet owner.

“She is doing everything possible to help her cats,” Awad said. “And this is what I admire her really for.”

Goss’ love of her cats is clear. They have their own bedroom, playroom and plenty of room to roam around.

A few years ago, the couple says their home was visited by someone from the Humane League of Lancaster County to follow up on a complaint, and found no issues.

“He said, I’m just going to put this to bed. He said these cats live better than I do, and they do,” Groff said.

Messages left for the Manheim Township zoning officer handling Goss’ case were not returned as of Tuesday night, but Goss said she was given a deadline of December 21st to find new homes for her felines.

If you are interested in adopting one of Goss’ cats, you can e-mail her at or call her at (717) 538-5664.


  • Cat Lover

    This is ridiculous…before I would move somewhere, guess I'd have to check for township ordinances…if this is their house, how can someone tell them how many cats they can have, especially if they are well cared for ?????????

    • teddybear58

      If this couple takes that good care of their cats and it is their home then shame on this township and it’s members.

  • Jodie

    This is the dumbest thing ever! Seriously the cats are well taken care of and loved why should she need to give them away. So the cats go from a loving home to a shelter where they may not be adopted or get in the hands of the wrong person. Its their home why does the township get to say how many cats they can have, really? Whats next how many children you can have living with you? Unreal!! Shame on the township!

  • Peter

    Ordinances such as this one in Manheim Township were struck down in PA in a court ruling in 1994!
    By opinion dated March 30, 1994, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court struck down an ordinance that limited the number of cats or dogs that could be maintained in a single residence to five.
    The Borough of Carnegie, which is located just outside of Pittsburgh, enacted an ordinance that provided: "No person or residence shall be permitted to own, harbor or maintain more than five (5) dogs or cats, or any combination thereof, within the Borough limits."
    Below is a link to a website with the complete story and ruling.



  • Betty

    You have so many people out here killing animals why not just leave them alone if they have a good home. Go find someone that’s actually abusing their animal and take theirs.

  • Melissa

    Please leave these caring people alone. They are not indiscriminate breeders such as we have many here in Lancaster County. Be thankful they are being loved and well cared for instead of being outside and multiplying. I would love to help and take one or two but I already have 3 rescues, plus a dogand I am not a young person. I pray all ends well for all.

  • Angela Klobusicky

    From personal experience I know that loop holes can be found and that exceptions to the rules are and can be made by your township. Considering that these animals are well taken care of, I think this family should take their case to their township's council. Not only are exceptions sometimes made, but townships often turn their heads on things as well. I just looked up the ordinances on animals in manheim township, and there is an ordinance against letting your animals roam. I'd take a wild guess that there are cat owners in this family's township who allow their cats out to wonder for a few hours. I doubt the township enforces this ordinance and these animals are roaming on other people's property and could cause concern for traffic as well. One may say that a these owners are putting their cats in danger as well. This family does nothing of the sort with their animals. Also, maybe they can try to find a loop hole in the ordinance? Again, I looked through the ordinance and the township does not provide a definition for "animal shelter" yet itmentions "animal shelters" in its ordinances. Why can this family not identify themselves as an animal shelter? I'm not sure how the township could even argue that they are not a shelter, when they technically don't even have a definition for it. This family needs to go to a township meeting and meet with their mayor. They should fight for these animals!! I think they have a case.

  • Lori Ache

    I also went on Manheim Township and I saw nothing about the number of pets you can have! I am going to email this couple and tell them not to give up without a fight!! I would not get rid of any of my animals, I would sell my house before I would do that!!

  • Amanda

    I agree that 44 cats is a lot to have in your home but if that's what they want and they are able to care for ALL of them and make sure they are vetted and utd on vaccines that's their business…no one elses. They aren't hurting anyone an
    d from what I can see these animals have it made. I have seen people with one or two pets that are living in worse conditions than these guys but no one makes them get rid of them. This is kindof like telling someone how many children they are allowed to have. Does this mean the "Duggar" Family will have to "re-home" 14 of their children because their is a limit of 5?

  • KitKat

    Please take the time to read the link posted by Peter above. According to this decision:

    Writing for the Commonwealth Court, Judge Friedman held that an ordinance limiting the number of dogs or cats a person could keep to five reached beyond the power granted to the Borough to prohibit a nuisance, absent any indication why more than five cats or dogs might constitute a nuisance or a risk to the public health, safety and welfare. The Court went on to add: "Even legitimate legislative goals (controlling nuisances) cannot be pursued by means which stifle fundamental personal liberty when the goals can be otherwise more reasonably achieved."

    In short, unless there has been a more recent case, in Pennsylvania legislation seeking to control ownership of cats based solely on numbers is invalid.

    Are there any lawyers out there who are also animal lovers willing to follow up on this? If you could help Ms. Goss out you would be a hero!

  • Anonymous

    There is nothing in the ordinances. Other than Ord 2006-07 dated 3/13/2006, Revising the limitations of dogs and cats in any zoning district, provided they are maintained as domestic animals. As stated in Ordinance and Resolution Key, 14-1001 (44). Funny how they didn't put any number in writing in the Ordinance other then its been revised. Back in 2000 something, they was a limit of two and of course that didn't go over well.

  • Anonymous

    Its in your own home, not hurting a soul and well taken care of. She is providing excellent care and providing them with a good home. She has not violated any laws. She is a responsible owner. There are many people who are responsible pet owners. I have lived in this community for the past 15 years and have never heard of any such number given ever. It time for the people in the community to take a stand and make these zoning officers realize we had enough of such ridiculous ordinances. This ordinance as they claim as a limit of 5, is not stated anywhere in the Code of Ordinances of the Township of Manheim. You own your home, you pay the taxes who are they to manidate what is in your house. Are they going to pay your mortgage and your taxes?

  • Tracy

    Nothing wrong with having pets but a hoarder is a hoarder. She probably has some type loss in her life and is trying to compensate.

    • Guest

      Maybe you should take the opportunity to contact her as many of us have done. Very level headed individual who has a passion. I am sure you have a passion for something too, does that make you crazy???

  • Anonymous

    I'm sure there are many of our 34,000 people in the community who have more than 5 animals. There can be no such LAW. The states cant regulate the numbers in your home nor can a township. It's ridiculous. The cats are happy where they are in their healthy home. The Zoning Officers are endangering the animals by forcing them out of their home, which will cause these cats to stress. Cats are animals who heavy stress with change. These Cat will stress in new home environments causing illnesses to be brought on unnecessarily by making them move out of their home. As someone said, stop harrassing a woman who is helping the community and the taxpayers by taking in the strays while easing the burden on the local SPCA and other shelters. The township should be thanking her for helping with this problem of strays and irresponsible owners who let unaltered cats run loose and breed out of control. There are responsible people in the community with pets whether they breeding or not, the number isn't an issue as long as there is no abuse or wrong doing. There are people who have one animal with abuse. We need caring people like her in our community.

  • pamalah

    RIght now, I understand the cats are in danger of being KILLED by the township. Or if they are taken into the penal animal system, it is the same thing. THey either kill those cats or they kill others to make room.

    Please people in the area, help her out by adopting one of her cats. Then deal with the ridiculous laws. She only has till Friday. Dec. 21.

  • Animal Lover

    They ought to fight to keep their cats. Apply to become an animal shelter, because in essence, that's one of the things they are. If all else fails, move elsewhere. Cats, dogs, etc., are family. Horses, too :)

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