Moving to slow the proliferation of stray animals, the Los Angeles Animal Regulation Commission is considering a controversial crackdown on pet owners who fail to sterilize their dogs and cats.
In a heated meeting at City Hall Monday, the commission heard a proposal that would require dog and cat owners to spay or neuter their pets before the animals reached five months of age.
Owners who didn't would be required to pay a $100 dollar annual fee for an "unaltered animal permit."
Owners also would be required to pay an additional $200 dollar yearly fee for a breeding permit, which would apply to all unaltered animals, even those kept indoors whose owners did not plan to breed them.
"A number of cities around the country have successfully implemented similar ordinances and have seen significant drops in shelter populations," said Dan Knapp, general manager of the Department of Animal Services.
Knapp said Los Angeles is experiencing a pet overpopulation crisis.
The Department of Animal Regulation estimated that about 45,000 stray dogs and 60,000 feral cats roam the streets of Los Angeles, creating public health and safety risks throughout the city.
In a one-year period ending in 1998, the city's six animal shelters euthanized 59,663 animals, he said.
Wendy Aragon, who operates Pet Assistance, a network of animal rescuers who find homes for stray pets, said that "without legislation, we are doomed to bailing out the ocean with a thimble."
But purebred pet enthusiasts contended they already regulate the breeding of their animals. Few purebreds end up in shelters, breeders said.
"This is unfairly targeting responsible breeders and it won't solve the problem of overpopulation," said Ted Powers of the Kennel Club of Beverly Hills.
Monday's meeting was the first of six public discussions on the issue. The meetings should conclude by October, said a commission spokesman.