Cats, famous for nine lives, escape from new city licensing program

February 10, 2016
Santa Paula News

Cats, famous for having nine lives, escaped again after the City Council voted to exclude felines from the licensing portion of a new spay and neutering ordinance narrowly approved Monday evening.

Licensing cats has been an issue in the proposed ordinance to mandate spay and neutering of pets in Santa Paula, a law the council had been discussing since late last year.

The ordinance now requires pet owners to spay or neuter their dogs and cats when they are over 4 months old, and implant them with an identification microchip but no longer carries the caveat of licensing cats.

The ordinance was approved on a 4-1 vote only after City Attorney John Cotti was directed to remove the clause that cats must be licensed; instead the council agreed to a one-time license for people that do not alter their cats.

After Vice Mayor Jenny Crosswhite and Councilwoman Ginger Gherardi voiced concerns about health impacts of neutering dogs at too early an age although they were assured by Cotti that the city would not be liable for animal health issues. He also added language where pet owners could delay fixing past 4 months with a veterinarian’s note.

The two councilwomen had written an editorial published in the Santa Paula Times asking for changes to the proposed ordinance that during public comment Richard Rudman said he supports.

“Our city,” said Rudman, “should not get involved in cat herding…”

Jean Marie Webster, a cofounder of SPARC, Santa Paula’s no-kill animal shelter, said she supports the ordinance and noted SPARC offers free and low-cost spay and neutering services.  

Gherardi questioned the dearth of information on the city’s website about animal control issues including licensing, staff shortages that would delay or stop enforcement and operational issues must be detailed before enforcement could proceed.

“We need a comprehensive package,” to proceed she noted.

After more discussion and questions Mayor Martin Hernandez, who proposed the ordinance, said it is all about the animals and educating owners on how they can do their part to reduce pet overpopulation.

If elected leaders waited for perfection for each action taken, “We’d never get anything done…we’re not going to put out a cat police force…” 

But he noted with all the strays running around the city, “If we don’t find compassion for those animals who is going to?”

He said if cat licensing is a concern it could be dropped, and, “This is not a revenue raising scheme for the city…”

Crosswhite, noting more clarity was still required on the fine points of the ordinance, voted no.

There is a one-year grace period built into the new law.

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