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Council scratches effort to end cat licensing


The county's law requiring cat owners to license their pets spent one of its nine lives last night, surviving a push by two County Council members to repeal the measure.

Facing organized opposition, Councilman William C. Mulford II of Annapolis withdrew his bill to kill the cat-licensing law before the public hearing started. He was joined by Thomas W. Redmond, the Pasadena councilman who co-sponsored the aborted measure.

"I agree with the intent of the legislation to reduce overpopulation and the destruction of animals each year," Mr. Redmond said. "But I disagree with its implementation."

Adopted by the council in 1994, the law requires cat owners to license their pets just as dog owners have done for years. The annual fee is the same for both animals: $30 for an unneutered or unspayed pet, $4 for an altered one.

County animal control officers prepared for the licensing program last year by retooling computers, creating application forms and mailing out informational brochures. The program started last month. So far 33 cats have been licensed, joining the 20,950 county dogs with tags.

The law was passed as a means of reducing the number of stray animals put to death each year by county Animal Control officers and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Those numbers have declined in recent years, but animal advocates say the figures are still too high. Last year, the County Animal Control department euthanized 1,424 dogs and 3,457 cats without identification.

Through a letter-writing campaign, the SPCA turned out roughly 100 of its 6,000 county members for last night's hearing, which was billed as a battle royal between animal lovers and government officials looking to shrink county bureaucracy. But the supporters, wearing "Dog and Cat Licenses Save Lives" lapel stickers, never had to say a word.

Frank C. Branchini, the SPCA's executive director, said Mr. Mulford approached him before the meeting to strike a deal: He would withdraw his bill if the licensing law could be reviewed by a "nonpartisan" panel at a later date. But several others who support cat-licensing said Mr. Mulford merely folded a losing hand.

"He didn't have the votes," said Maureen Lamb, Mr. Mulford's predecessor on the council who sponsored the original cat-licensing law. "We've already studied this to a point where it's crazy. It doesn't make sense" to do it again.

Mr. Branchini said the SPCA has won a $4,000 grant from Baltimore's William Snyder Foundation for Animals to advertise the cat-licensing program through utility-bill inserts, newspaper ads and coupon mailers.


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