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Davis, California

Sunday, October 17, 2021

County may require cat owners to register

The Yolo County Board of Supervisors is looking at every possible source of revenue to help balance the struggling budget, including requiring cat owners to license their cats.

Though this plan has not been officially proposed, it was brought up for consideration at the May 11 Board of Supervisors meeting.

Control of the rabies prevention program used to be shared between the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department and the Yolo County Health Department, but budget cuts have resulted in decreased funding, and primary responsibility has been moved to the Sheriff’s Department.

Yolo County is a “rabies endemic” area; rabies has been proven to exist in local wildlife.

“This is an essential program,” said Assistant County Administrator Pat Leary. “Overall funding is down significantly, including ‘realignment’ revenue, which helps pay for the rabies program.”

Several other California counties currently require cat owners to license their pets. Instating a cat licensing program would bring revenue with a licensing fee – $1.50 for altered (spayed/neutered) pets and $2.50 for unaltered pets.

“Sacramento County has a cat licensing fee, and it gathers a significant portion of revenue for animal services,” said Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson.

The issue is not simply black and white, however.

“Licensing cats is a very emotional issue – people’s hair gets on fire over it,” said Thomson.

Yolo County currently requires dogs to be licensed but not cats. This results in more lost dogs than cats being redeemed, said Yolo County Animal Shelter Manager Vicky Fletcher. If an unlicensed cat is found or hit by a car, for example, there is usually a slim chance that the owner will be notified.

“This would give cat owners the ability to provide identification and ownership of their pet,” Fletcher said. “Cats have a very low recovery rate, which is sad.”

Many members of the Board of Supervisors were skeptical of implementing a cat-licensing program. Supervisor Mike McGowan said he was 97 percent opposed to the issue, and Supervisor Matt Rexroad said he was 99 percent opposed.

“Do we have to license beavers, too?” said Supervisor Duane Chamberlain at the meeting. “Coyotes?”

Thomson is in favor of exploring the issue, however.

“I don’t mind a cat license program, but I need to know more about it,” she said. “We’re looking at every possible source of revenue we can.”

Leary said the county will be analyzing the pros and cons of this issue before making a decision.

“We’ll be talking to other counties who implemented this program or chose not to,” she said.

SARAH HANSEL can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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