LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Cat owners in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles will be required to spay or neuter their cats and have them microchipped under an ordinance approved by the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Oct. 20.
A similar ordinance has applied to dogs since 2006.
Fewer than 2 percent of cats that end up at county shelters are returned to their owners, according to Department of Animal Care and Control Director Marcia Mayeda. That compares with nearly 13 percent of dogs in fiscal year 2014-15, according to statistics on the DACC website.
The low rate of reunited cats is in part because owners rarely microchip them. Many owners also don’t like to put collars on their cats for fear of hurting the animal if the collar gets caught on something.
Owners sometimes wait nearly a week when an outdoor cat goes missing before checking in with local shelters, Mayeda said.
“By that time, the animal could have entered and left our system already,” she told the board.
A microchip allows cats to be easily identified and returned home.
The department is overwhelmed with cats and had to euthanize more than 70 percent of the 28,911 cats it impounded in the 12 months ended June 30, 2015, according to board documents.
There just aren’t enough adoptive homes, so the best way to reduce euthanasia rates is to reduce unwanted breeding, Mayeda said.
Owners can seek exceptions for show cats and cats that are too old or sick to undergo surgery.
While $125,000 in funding lasts, the county is handing out $50 vouchers that can be redeemed at any veterinarian to help pay for spaying or neutering a cat. Owners at any income level are eligible.
The department also plans continue its longstanding policy of issuing vouchers for low-cost spay and neutering services to low-income residents.
Mayeda said animal care officials will wait three months to get the word about the new ordinance before enforcing it.
Enforcement will be based on complaints and offenders will first be warned before they are cited. Failing to comply with the ordinance is punishable by a fine not to exceed $250.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich also asked the department to look at offering a subsidy to residents who adopt pets, saying increasing adoptions is a top priority.
The Los Angeles City Council gave initial approval to a policy allowing city residents to keep as many as five cats as pets, up from the existing limit of three, in an effort to encourage more pet adoptions and help reduce the number of euthanized animals at shelters.