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Out here on the Left Coast - an excerpt from yesterday's local paper, the Sacramento Bee, about the City Council's latest decision to increase license fees on unaltered dogs by almost 500 percent per year. require licenses of cats. How the heck will they enforce that? I can't see any logic to this other than a veiled attempt to increase city revenue.

City pet tag fees rise- Ordinances target unneutered dogs and cats in bid to reduce animal population.
By Ralph Montaño - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, March 29, 2007

Calling it a step toward reducing pet overpopulation, the Sacramento City Council last week voted to dramatically increase fees for licensed dogs and cats that are able to breed. The council also voted to require cat licensing for the first time.

Beginning in a month, the city will charge $150 for an annual license for a dog that has not been spayed or neutered. The current fee is $36. The license for an unaltered cat would increase from $30 to $75 a year.

"We are looking at this because it is an important issue," Mayor Heather Fargo said. She added that she hopes the increased fees will lead to less breeding and thus, fewer animals being exterminated by the city.

Several animal-advocate organizations agreed with the decision.

"We applaud the city of Sacramento for enacting these ordinances and being the first local municipality to take a strong stand against out-of-control breeding in the Sacramento region," said Pam Runquist, a representative of the Coalition to Stop Animal Overpopulation. The group worked with the city for more than two years to develop ordinances to discourage excessive breeding.

But one advocate for people who breed and show dogs disagreed.

"They are making criminals out of people like me," said Wayne Sheldon, president of the Sacramento Council of Dog Clubs, which he said includes 35 groups in the Sacramento area. He said he doesn't breed dogs, only shows them, but all show dogs must be unaltered. "My choice is either to pay up or go underground," Sheldon said.

He added that many responsible breeders in the city face the same choice. "The city needs to go after the problem breeders or the feral cats. Don't come after people like us who are not part of the problem."

Hector Cazares, manager of the city's animal shelter, told the City Council that the ordinance revisions address critical animal welfare issues in a way that has proven effective in other cities.

"This is not a panacea," he told the council. "It's one more tool in our effort to reduce the number of animals we see each year."

The new ordinances amend the existing dog and cat licensing portions of the City Code and add provisions to streamline the citation process, Cazares said. They also authorize the city's Animal Care Services to collect fees related to citations.

Animal Care Services will use fees and fines as a "financial incentive" to cut down on problem breeding situations, Cazares added. Any citations issued under the ordinance will be "fix-it tickets" with fines and higher fees waived if the animal is sterilized.

At least half of the fines and fees collected will go into a sterilization fund to be used for public or private programs that provide spaying and neutering for the pets of low-income individuals or families in the city.

While the prices of licenses for unaltered pets tripled, those for spayed or neutered dogs changed little: rising from $12 to $15 for one year and from $30 and $35 for three years.

For spayed or neutered cats, the license fees are unchanged: $10 a year or $25 for three years. However, this is the first time the city has required cats to be licensed.

Cat licenses long have been controversial even among animal rights groups that support the proposed program.

In 1995, the San Francisco chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals released an often-cited analysis that cat licensing is an ineffective tool in population control or reduction in shelter euthanasia.

Closer to home, Pat Claerbout, the director of Sacramento County's animal care and regulation department, said she has not seen effective population control in cats even though the county has had a licensing requirement since July 1994.

She said the county shelter took in 8,500 cats last year and 6,200 were put to death.

Most cat owners in the county don't license their animals, Claerbout said. The county issues about 3,100 cat licenses annually, an estimated 2 percent of the cat population.

Yet Claerbout feels cat licensing is important for other reasons. "It can be a tool when there are compliance issues," she said. "You have people who put out food, but don't take ownership of their animals. This gives us a way to get people to take responsibility."

Some members of the Sacramento City Council expressed skepticism during the meeting about the effectiveness of cat licensing and the city's ability to enforce it. Cazares said the new cat law will not be enforced easily.

Fargo, a cat owner, said she would go along with the proposed ordinance but wanted to see annual reports on pet licensing in the future. Other council members agreed, and the ordinances passed without opposition.

Cazares said the next step will be to inform the public on the new requirements before they go into effect.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is considering adopting fees similar to those approved in the city limits. The board first heard a similar ordinance more than a year ago. After hours of public testimony on the subject and protests from animal breeders, the board originally called for community meetings and then hired a mediator.

The matter is scheduled before the board on April 17.
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