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Licensing Requirements

Licensing refers to when a municipality requires cat owners to license or register their pet cat with a government agency. Like leash laws, licensing ultimately results in more cats being impounded in pounds and shelters, where 70% of cats impounded are killed. Licensing is particularly misleading and harmful, because it fails to achieve any of its stated goals and usually ends up exacerbating the problem.

Common Licensing Myths:

Licensing reunites lost cats with owners.

FALSE. Nationally, only 2% of impounded cats are reunited with their owners, according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy. In a study of San Diego shelters, “the worst spike in euthanasia we found was L.A. County, where cats reclaimed fell 32 percent the year they instituted cat licensing.”

Licensing generates revenue for the community.

FALSE. The cost of running a licensing program often exceeds the revenue the programs generate. Compliance rates are notoriously low, and by its nature, licensing increases the number of cats picked up by animal control and brought to shelters. As a result, the number of cats killed increases, and taxpayers are forced to foot the bill.

Licensing ensures cats are spayed/neutered and vaccinated against rabies.

FALSE. The only way to ensure an animal is spayed/neutered is to directly spay/neuter the animal. Licensing wastes funds on enforcement and rounding up unlicensed animals rather than directing it where it’s needed most: to run low-cost spay/neuter programs. Studies show that the main reason people don’t spay/neuter their pets is because of the cost of the procedure and lack of access to clinics. Adding licensing fees on top of veterinary costs is likely to discourage spaying/neutering rather than encourage it, and is another reason licensing compliance rates are so low.

Licensing is also impractical because one of the only ways to visually distinguish a licensed cat from an unlicensed cat is a tag on the cat’s collar. Many cats do not tolerate collars, and those who wear them can easily lose them; nearly all cat collars today are designed to break away easily to prevent strangulation. Yet any cat not wearing a collar—owned or unowned, licensed or unlicensed, socialized or feral—is a visible target for impoundment by animal control.