Cat licensing bill draws faint praise at hearing

August 16, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

Although professing neutrality, county animal-control officials expressed strong reservations during a public hearing last night on a bill that would require cats to be licensed as dogs are now.

The bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Maureen Lamb at the request of the county's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, would impose a $30 licensing fee for an unspayed or unneutered dog or cat and $4 for an altered pet, with discounts for veterans, the disabled and senior citizens.

The fees would encourage spaying and neutering of pets, Ms. Lamb argued, thus reducing the number of unwanted animals that must be killed at shelters. It would also assist in identifying lost cats.

"Lost cats deserve a ticket home just like dogs," said Ms. Lamb, an Annapolis Democrat.

But Victor Sulin, deputy director of the Department of Planning and Code Enforcement, which oversees the animal-control agency, was not very enthusiastic about the bill.

"The animal-control agency and the administration have no real problem with the legislation that is being proposed . . ." Mr. Sulin said, before the animal-control director launched into a list of problems with the bill.

Mr. Sulin said that although it might sound like the county was opposing cat licensing, "we are only trying to bring out some of the problems in administering this law."

Tahira Williams, animal-control director, told the council that she estimated cat licensing would cause $300,000 in additional costs to her agency while bringing in $400,000 in revenue.

"Although that appears to be revenue neutral," she said, that does not include the four additional workers she would need to administer a cat licensing program. Currently, there is one person who processes the 22,000 dog licenses issued by the county each year.

"This is going to cost money to the county," Ms. Williams said. She added that when fees for dog licenses were increased in recent years, the number of licenses issued dropped sharply. Owners would return renewal forms stating that their dog had died.

"Animal control agrees with the goals proposed by the SPCA, but we do not agree with the avenue they want animal control to take to get there," Ms. Williams said. "The point is that additional laws without additional people to enforce these laws are ineffective and simply sit on the books."

Karena Schriner, who works at the SPCA, made an emotional plea to the council to pass the bill as a way to reduce the euthanasia of animals. Each morning at work, one of her first tasks is to help select the animals that will be destroyed that day.

"I'm tired and sad about the killing that goes on every day in the shelters," she said. "I think animal control understands, and I think our staff understands, that the killing must stop."

Lee Brown, an Annapolis resident representing the Cat Fanciers Association, told the council that the licensing of cats owned by responsible individuals is unnecessary.

The council approved an amendment introduced by Councilman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, R-Pasadena, that would leave fees for both dog and cat licenses for kennel owners and dog and cat fanciers at $4 for spayed animals and $10 for unaltered animals.

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