Pointless pet licensing bill Reducing license fees for unneutered animals accomplishes nothing.

March 15, 1996

THE ANNE ARUNDEL County Council wants to reduce licensing fees for unspayed or unneutered dogs and cats, a proposal that's absolutely pointless.

It now costs $30 to license an unspayed or unneutered pet and $4 for one that has been spayed or neutered. The discrepancy is designed to encourage pet owners to have their animals fixed. But the council all seven members thinks if it lowers the fee for unspayed and unneutered animals to $15, more people will license their pets, thus bringing in more revenue.

They must be kidding. Do they really believe that pet owners who don't bother to have their animals fixed are the kind of people who will take the trouble to buy a pet license? Not a single unspayed or unneutered cat has been licensed since a cat licensing law was approved two years ago. For that matter, only 107 neutered cats have been licensed, and most of them came from the county animal shelter.

Philosophically, the existing law makes sense. Reducing dog and cat overpopulation, not dumping more money into county coffers, ought to be the major goal of any pet licensing law. Lowering fees for unspayed and unneutered animals eliminates the incentive for people to get their animals fixed. It's cheaper for pet owners to shell out $15 than pay for surgery so they could take advantage of the $4 fee.

Practically, animal licensing in Anne Arundel County is a joke. Due to lack of enforcement and education about the benefits of having an animal wear a license, only a fifth of the county's 20,000 dogs and cats are licensed. Many of those licenses are worthless, animal control officials say, because pet owners don't make their dog or cat actually wear the tag. As a result, licensing is virtually ineffective as a tool for identifying strays and reducing the number of unspayed and unneutered pets.

These facts will not change even if the council withdraws the bill. A substantial drop in the number of unwanted dogs and cats that have to be destroyed will occur only when the county puts more effort into publicizing, encouraging and enforcing the pet licensing law. If elected officials are not going to do that, they may as well get rid of the law altogether as waste time tinkering with fees that pet owners won't pay no matter how paltry they are.

Pub Date: 3/15/96

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