Legal Watch

Does cat licensing work? Experts from both sides of the issue weigh in.

By Beth Kalet | Posted: Tue Feb 20 00:00:00 PST 2001

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You go to your town hall, fill out some paper work, pay a fee and voila - you have a license for your cat. No big deal, right? You figure you've made it easier for your cat to be found if it gets lost and you may be helping the thousands of cats killed in shelters each year. Who could argue against such noble causes? The idea of licensing and the issues of freedom versus responsibility and unwanted taxation have been around for a long time: They are as old as America itself.

All across the country, the topic of cat licensing elicits strong reactions. Opponents say it's just another unnecessary form of taxation. Proponents say it helps control rabies and the problem of feral cat overpopulation. Pet owners and breeders simply flout registration and licensing laws they consider a nuisance, says Joan Miller of Suisun City, Calif., legislative coordinator for the Cat Fanciers' Association, the largest registry of pedigreed cats.

"It's like the 55-mph speed limit. Everybody does 70," says George Eigenhauser of San Diego, Calif., Southwest regional director for CFA.

Jack Kopf, a CFA registered breeder in Glen Rock, N.J., says he has little problem with the law in his town. The limit is six adult cats per household. "Six cats underfoot are enough for me," he says.

Still, such laws are a rallying cry for many.

As a means of keeping feral cats under control, they are the wrong tack to take, says Becky Robinson, national director of Alley Cat Allies, a national feral cat coalition based in Washington, D.C., that promotes trap-neuter-return efforts. If the aim is to promote responsible pet ownership and enforce ID for pets, the laws are pointless, Miller says. Pet owners prove their responsibility by caring for and neutering their own cats, she says. "Most of us [CFA and its advocates] have no problem with the idea of identification, but we don't really consider identification and licensing synonymous," Miller says.

Can cat licensing really accomplish goals of responsible pet ownership?

"That's the $64,000 question," Eigenhauser says. Many cat-licensing opponents see it as nothing more than a way to produce revenue. "The stated purpose of ID tags is so [owned pets] can be returned to their owner, but it just becomes another way to tax," Eigenhauser adds.

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Reader Comments

janet    bethlehem, PA

1/10/2014 3:01:26 AM


Sarah    Albuquerque, NM

3/27/2013 1:59:56 PM

I agree with licensing cats and dogs, as it provides a means of proof of vaccination, and also helps with responsible pet ownership. I don't get why people say there are no benefits for the owners. If the cat bites someone, there is a mandatory quarantine if the cat has proof of vaccination, but if they don't the cat is usually taken from the owner and quarantined at a shelter, and may be euthanized. It's the same for dogs. And it's not expensive to license your pet...costs me $6 a year....

Jan    Mayer, AZ

3/5/2013 8:43:08 PM

Licensing is not only for identification, but also is proof of rabies vaccination. What if the cat bites someone? If licensed, the proof is there that the cat has his rabies shot, just as with dogs. I'm for it.

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

1/21/2013 11:21:01 PM

Well, I think licensing cats is about as silly as licensing dogs. It's just a way to gouge our pocket books and we receive no benefit.

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