Cat-licensing ordinance in jeopardy Council is considering repeal of year-old law

February 02, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Now that the county's Division of Licensing and Enforcement is geared up to enforce a year-old cat-licensing ordinance, the County Council may send the provision to the litter box.

Two council members who own unlicensed cats are proposing to repeal the law requiring licensing of cats, though one is reconsidering. In addition, several council members are considering amendments to the proposal that would cut the licensing fee for unspayed or unneutered pets from $30 to $15.

The 1994 legislation added cats to the law that required all dogs in the county to be licensed. It also increased fees for licensing unspayed and unneutered cats and dogs from $10 to $30.

Councilmen Thomas Redmond of Pasadena and William C. Mulford II of Annapolis, who are proposing to repeal the 1994 law, have argued that the law requires the county to set up the licensing bureaucracy but gains little from it.

In addition, the $30 fee for licensing pets that have not been spayed or neutered is a deterrent to licensing, Mr. Redmond said.

"My office received a couple dozen calls from people who said they were not going to pay $30 to license a dog," he said. "They said they were just going to say the dog died."

Mr. Mulford, however, said that he is reconsidering sponsoring the bill after meeting with officials from the SPCA of Anne Arundel County.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said the 1994 legislation encourages pet owners to spay or neuter their pets because the license fee for neutered pets is only $4.

The cost of a neutering operation could be made up in two years through the lower fee, said Frank Branchini, executive director.

"This has worked in other places," he said. "What we are trying to accomplish here is reduced euthanasia. The license is an ID."

Last year, the county returned 975 of 2,500 wandering dogs to their owners. But only 95 of 3,403 cats picked up by animal-control operators made it home.

The cat licensing law was adopted after a stormy council hearing in September 1994, and a similar session is expected Monday night at the hearing on the repeal proposal. The SPCA sent an emergency mailing this week to its 6,000 members warning them the law is in jeopardy.

Victor Sulin, deputy director of licensing and enforcement, argued that because his office has gone to the trouble of rewriting licensing forms and changing computer programs, the program ought to be implemented.

"We are at a point where we are poised to go forward with cat licensing, so why not go forward?" he said. He said the county has licensed 22 cats.

Pet owners were nonplused by the proposal.

"I don't know about the licensing part of it. I don't think it would work," Mike Arnett of Glen Burnie said while shopping for pet food yesterday. Unless the county had an aggressive enforcement scheme, especially for house cats, he doubted many cat owners would bother to obtain a license.

He said he doesn't believe a licensing requirement would make cat owners have their pets vaccinated and neutered.

On the other hand, $4 to license a neutered cat "won't break you unless you have 100 cats," he said.

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