If the spay, neuter and microchip incentive program is approved, Surf City would be the first in Orange County to require that cats be licensed.
HUNTINGTON BEACH - The City Council is set to vote Monday on an incentive program intended to encourage residents to spay, neuter and microchip their cats and dogs. But included in the proposal is a new law that is making some cat lovers hiss. If the program is approved, Huntington Beach would be the first Orange County city to require felines to be licensed.
The incentive program has evolved from a 10-month struggle at City Hall over Councilman Keith Bohr's proposal for a mandatory spay, neuter and microchip program. At a heated council meeting in November, then-Councilwoman Debbie Cook suggested the incentive program as a compromise. Under the program, Huntington residents who want to license a pet that has not been sterilized or microchipped would have to pay $213 for a dog and $125 for a cat. Licensing a pet that has been sterilized and microchipped would cost $23 for a dog and $5 for a cat.
Los Angeles County and Sacramento have similar cat-licensing laws, and on Friday the Los Angeles City Council voted to require spaying or neutering for dogs and cats.
While the proposal to license felines six months and older has frustrated some, others say it could cure Huntington's cat overpopulation problem.
"It is really a two-pronged benefit," Bohr said. "It will increase awareness of the pet population and encourage residents to have their cat spayed or neutered."
But Save Our Strays, one of the most vocal supporters of Bohr's mandatory program, said the latest version of the ordinance is unrealistic.
"Frankly, I think it is completely unenforceable," Karen Chepeka, president of Save Our Strays, said about compulsory cat licensing. "Dogs will bark but if people keep their cats indoors, you hardly know they are there.''
Orange County Animal Control Services, which licenses most of the county's dogs, already has a voluntary program for cats that charges $5 per license. The number of cats in the program was unavailable Friday.
"Obviously, we recommend that people ID their pets," said animal control services spokesman Ryan Drabek. "Ninety-seven percent of (lost) animals with IDs were returned home last year."
Animal control will wait for the City Council to finalize the new program before it plans for a potential wave of cat licensing requests, he said.
From mandatory to incentive
Councilman Don Hansen has expressed support for the incentive program.
"I think it is a great compromise and solution that eliminates the mandatory nature (of the law) and gives them the comfort of not having to alter their animals," he said.
The incentives would be added to the $72 discount county animal control already gives dog owners who spay or neuter their pets. Under Huntington's system, a dog would need to be sterilized and microchipped to get the full discount.
Bohr said the new proposal is a step in the right direction, but some of his previous supporters say they still want a mandatory program.
"It sounds like they are moving forward but frankly I am really disappointed about the way it turned out," Chepeka said.