Lawmakers delay vote on raising cat ownership limit from three to five

A 4-month-old female domestic cat shown in January 2008 at a shelter in South Los Angeles. Supporters of a proposed change to the city code increasing the cat ownership limit from three to five say it promotes cat adoptions.
(Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles City Council delayed voting Tuesday on a proposed change to the city code that would ease the limit on the number of cats residents can own.

Under the current law, residents are barred from owning more than three cats without a kennel permit. The proposed change would raise the limit to five.

Following lengthy public testimony from animal activists and city officials, Councilman Paul Koretz, chairman of the city’s Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee, suggested waiting another 60 days before the three-member committee votes on the item.


“We’ve been having an ongoing discussion with various folks on this issue, and a couple of pieces are still up in the air,” Koretz said.

If approved, the proposed feline ownership limit would head to the full City Council for consideration.

Supporters of the change, including Koretz, argue that the new limit promotes the adoption of cats, which are less likely than dogs to find new owners out of shelters.

“We have to try and adopt out more cats. The most likely takers are people who already have them in their home,” Koretz said.

Others chafe at the inflexibility of the three-cat cap.

“Three is an arbitrary number,” said Christi Metropole, the founder and executive director of the Stray Cat Alliance. “You can live in a one-bedroom apartment and have three cats, and you can have a mansion and have three cats.”

Under the proposed rule, a household could have up to five cats, but only three of the felines would be allowed to roam outside. The others would be confined to living indoors.


Owners of five or more cats would have to pay license fees ranging from $55 to $150 and agree to annual inspections.

Some opponents say the proposal would promote hoarding, and many find the enforcement system infeasible or nonexistent.

“It provides no mechanism to ensure that additional cats beyond three are kept indoors,” said Travis Longcore, science director for the Urban Wildlands Group, and Dan Silver, executive director of the Endangered Habitats League. The pair submitted an opposition letter addressed to Koretz and other committee members.

“Any scheme that mixes indoor, outdoor, and indoor/outdoor cats at an address is clearly not meant to be enforced,” Longcore and Silver wrote in their letter.

In another letter, Susan Taylor, executive director of Actors and Others for Animals, said her organization supported raising the cat limit but questioned whether the city has the resources to conduct inspections.

“It seems incredulous that a proposal that requires so much manpower is getting serious consideration,” Taylor wrote.


All cats would have to be spayed or neutered, a law that’s already on the books. Landlords’ rules on pet ownership would still trump the city’s cap.

Dogs are also capped at three, but no other pets have ownership limits.

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Times staff writer Sarah Parvini contributed to this report.