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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : City Council Rejects Cat-Licensing Proposal : Animal control: County officials fail to persuade Lancaster representatives that fewer impounded felines would have to be euthanized.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The fur was flying as the Lancaster City Council voted 3 to 2 to reject a county proposal to begin mandatory cat licensing in the city and to add a $2 surcharge to dog licenses.

The council majority decided Monday night that the finicky felines and their freewheeling lifestyle ought not be fettered by licenses. The council minority sided with county animal control officials, who argued that licensing would reduce the growing number of unidentified, impounded cats who must be killed.

“I think it’s getting ridiculous. The next thing you’re going to want is my pet rabbit,” said Mayor Arnie Rodio, an owner of two Himalayan cats. Criticizing the measure as a county gimmick to raise money, Rodio voted with council members Henry Hearns and Franks Roberts to reject it.

But Councilman George Runner, who joined Councilman George Root in supporting the measure, called his colleagues’ position “ridiculous.”

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“Half of our animal population is cats, and we’re unwilling to make cat owners responsible for them,” Runner said.

Mandatory cat licensing has been the subject of caterwauling throughout the county since the Board of Supervisors in January voted to impose it and the dog license surcharge in unincorporated areas. Mandatory dog licensing has been in effect countywide for years, officials said.

After the board vote, Los Angeles County animal control officials contacted the 51 cities they serve, asking them to pass the same measure. As of Tuesday, only five of those cities--Carson, Lynwood, Palmdale, Santa Clarita and West Hollywood--had done so.

According to Bob Ballenger, a spokesman for the county Department of Animal Care and Control, Lancaster joined South Gate and Malibu as cities that have rejected the measure. Ballenger said he believes that the more than 40 other cities served by the county have yet to decide.

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Although county officials concede that they proposed the cat licensing measure in part to raise money, they said the main reason was to try to reduce the large number of stray cats the county impounds that must be killed because they have no identification and go unclaimed in shelters.

From mid-1992 to mid-1993, 32,090, or 83%, of the 38,548 cats impounded by the county were euthanized and only 281 were returned to their owners. Cats now account for nearly half of all animals impounded by the department, although their owners do not pay for licenses, as dog owners do.

Similarly, at the county’s Lancaster shelter, which serves the Antelope Valley, about 7,800 of the more than 8,500 cats impounded from mid-1992 to mid-1993 were killed. And of cats impounded from within the city, about 2,700 of 3,100 were killed, county officials said.

County officials said fewer than 900 of the about 50,000 cats in Lancaster have been licensed under the current voluntary system. The county had wanted a $5 licensing fee for altered cats and $10 for unaltered felines. Dog licenses would have increased from $10 to $12, and from $20 to $22.

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