Los Angeles County supervisors voted 4 to 0 Tuesday to require that cat owners in unincorporated communities spay and neuter their pets in hopes of reducing the number of unwanted cats that end up in county shelters and are eventually euthanized.
Last year, about 19,000 cats -- 70% of those brought to the county's six shelters -- were euthanized. At some shelters, the ratio was even higher. The highest was Baldwin Park shelter, where 78% of cats brought in were killed.
The number of cats killed is much higher than that of dogs, which are more frequently adopted or reclaimed from shelters by their owners, or in some cases, transported out of state by rescue groups. Many of the cats killed each year are unweaned kittens or feral cats.
The move to require neutering of cats was proposed by Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Hilda Solis, who have also proposed an overhaul of aging county animal facilities that they say don’t provide a good environment for animals or one that appeals to potential adopters.
The approximately 1 million residents of unincorporated areas are already required to neuter their dogs, and the county provides vouchers to subsidize the cost for low-income dog owners.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said she wanted to see a similar program for cat owners.
"I'm strongly for it," she said, referring to the spay-neuter mandate. "But I want to make certain that if you're ordering people to do things, they can actually afford to do it."
The details of the mandate remain to be worked out, and supervisors will vote again on a final proposal. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was absent from Tuesday's vote.
The supervisors also asked the Department of Animal Care and Control to look at ways to provide low-cost services to cat owners.
[Updated]: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the number of cats euthanized last year as 29,000.
Follow Abby Sewell on Twitter at @sewella for more county news.