Cat Licensing Equal To That Of Dogs Is Among Package of Animal Control-Related Proposals Set For Oct. 20 Council Discussion; Referral To City Mgm't/City Att'y Proposed To Develop Formal Muni Code Changes

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  • (Oct. 14, 2009) -- Cat licensing equal to that of dogs is among a package of animal control-related proposals scheduled for discussion at the Oct. 20 City Council meeting.

    The item, agendized by Councilmembers Suja Lowenthal, Gary DeLong and Patrick O'Donnell [with verbiage not inconsistent with positions advocated by City Hall's Animal Care Services Dir. John Keisler] proposes that the City Manager and City Attorney review LB's Municipal Code "for necessary changes related to spay/neutering, cat licensing, mobile unit education, enabling Long Beach Animal Care Services to better manage animal populations throughout the city."

    Among the proposals is a "cat-licensing program equal to that of dogs." The agendizing memo notes that while it's illegal for LB residents to possess unaltered cats, "owners continue to allow their cats to roam outdoors and produce hundreds of unwanted litters on an annual basis. To increase the number of cats returned to their owners, improve enforcement of current laws, and reduce the number of cats euthanized at the shelter each year, the City Council needs to encourage a cat-licensing program equal to that of dogs."

    The agendizing memo says 62 cities and 1 County unincorporated area provide for some form of cat licensing...and cat licensing is mandatory in at least seven of these cities and the unincorporated County area. Average fees for cat licensing are between $5.00 and $10.00 to cover costs of administration and registration, the agendizing memo says.

    The item's "targeted legislative changes by the City Council, operational changes by Animal Care Services, and increased level of awareness and engagement with the community around the issues of responsible pet ownership" include:

    Reducing Unwanted Animals : Spay and Neuter

    A key component in reducing the number of animals impounded and euthanized each year is to encourage pet owners to spay & neuter their pets . Animal Care Services works with nonprofit partners such as Friends of Long Beach Animals to distribute vouchers for spay/neuter services at local veterinary hospitals . These community groups have done a tremendous job of reducing spay/neutering costs to residents, while increasing the number of spay/neuter procedures for cats and dogs by 15,100 over the past 11 years . Still, 6,167 unclaimed dogs and cats were euthanized by the City of Long Beach in 2008 (of which 76 percent were cats), indicating that much more must be done to limit breeding and hold people accountable for their animals . As a community, we must promote a strategy that will reduce the cost and expand the capacity within our city to provide spay/neuter services for both cats and dogs .

    Increasing Healthy Outcomes: Licensing and Microchipping

    In 2008, approximately 63 percent of dogs, and 17 percent of cats were returned to their owners or found new homes after entering the shelter . While the "Live Release Rate" (the number of animals finding healthy outcomes), has increased in 2009, a key component to improving adoption, redemption and rehabilitation to an acceptable level is through licensing and microchipping dogs, cats and other animals . This provides the best opportunity for Animal Care Services to return animals before they are ever impounded . In 2009, Animal Care Services received a donated, out-of-commission Navy ambulance . These types of assets should be deployed to bring affordable licensing and microchipping services to hard-to-reach areas of the city through the increased use of cost-effective mobile clinics and outreach events.

    [indicated above] Promoting Responsible Pet Ownership and Accountability: Licensing

    By far, the largest population of animals euthanized at the shelter in 2008 (over 4,600), were free-roaming cats. While it is illegal for residents of Long Beach to possess unaltered cats, owners continue to allow their cats to roam outdoors and produce hundreds of unwanted litters on an annual basis. To increase the number of cats returned to their owners, improve enforcement of current laws, and reduce the number of cats euthanized at the shelter each year, the City Council needs to encourage a cat-licensing program equal to that of dogs . A survey of (95) cities and (2) counties in the Los Angeles region indicates that (62) cities and (1) county unincorporated area provides for some form of cat licensing . At least (7) of these cities and the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County have confirmed that cat licensing is mandatory. These include:

    While average fees for cat licensing are between $5.00 and $10.00 to cover the costs for administration and registration, licensing provides Animal Care Services with the tools to return animals to their owners and hold owners accountable for allowing their unaltered cats to roam. Model cities and national organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have already provided evidence that these strategies work . The step towards mandatory licensing of all animals in Long Beach should not deter the ongoing efforts of Animal Care Services and their partners to address free roaming cat populations throughout the city such as the shoreline, parks and industrial areas in a humane manner .

    Engaging the Community : Education and Volunteer Opportunities

    Reaching out to those areas of the city where pet overpopulation and neglected animals are more prevalent requires a new strategy for community engagement and volunteerism . Currently, there are only three License Inspectors canvassing communities to check dog licenses, speak with residents, encourage responsible pet ownership and ensure compliance with existing municipal codes . Another (14) Animal Control Officers will respond to over 24,000 calls for service after problems have occurred . To reverse this trend, the City must promote strategies that go beyond emergency response and embrace prevention as a priority . Resources must be leveraged to increase volunteerism and community engagement over issues where they are needed most (e.g. barking dogs, off-leash, defecation, wildlife conflict, free-roaming cats). Community-based prevention strategies not only reduce the number of unwanted animals impounded and euthanized each year, but also reduces costs associated with animal care and impounds .

    There is no single strategy that will alter this community-based problem of animal overpopulation . However, doing the same thing and expecting different results is not a responsible policy . To drive down the number of animals impounded at the shelter each year, the City must work with residents to promote licensing, microchipping, vaccinations and spay and neuter of animals . These strategies work together and have worked in other communities; but require an expanded partnership between the community, non-profit, private and public sectors . The vision of Animal Care Services is to make Long Beach the safest large city in California for people and animals . The expansion of spay and neuter services, cat licensing, mobile services and community engagement are the building blocks for achieving this vision.

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