The City of Los Angeles is thinking of raising its cat limit law from 3 to 20+ cats per household. The proposal suggests that if a person owns 1 to 3 cats, the cats may be indoor or outdoor, but outdoor only if altered. Additional cats, or the cats in a registered private “clowder”, must be kept indoors with no requirement for sterilization. It is possible for even more cats to be kept, if those cats are foster cats rather than owned. What could possibly go wrong here?
The proposal in its current form is poorly constructed. It allows owned cats to roam at their peril or potentially end up back in the shelter using valuable space and resources. It allows breeding at a time when the overpopulation of cats is at crisis levels. It potentially allows the suffering of cats in ill equipped “clowders” who may not get help but for an annual inspection or cruelty complaint. Its analysis of the hoarding and foster care components is deficient.
spcaLA's position is that one abused pet in a home is one too many, and fifty well cared for pets in a home is fine. It is however, traditional for government animal control agencies to arbitrarily limit the number of pets in a household in the name of public safety, health, welfare, and nuisance control. Such limits also aid in the prevention, management and prosecution of animal hoarders.
The pet limit number varies from community to community, with, neither a nexus between the existence of a limit and a stated result, nor, a nexus between particular numbers to the same. In other words, the presence of this restriction does not deter animal neglect, unsanitary conditions, bites and bugs, and there is no magic limit number that has been found to effectuate a positive outcome. One noisy dog can wake up neighbors, and one stinky cat can smell up an apartment floor while eight well behaved dogs and five clean cats present no problem, notwithstanding a potential violation of a limit law.
The reality is that limit laws do not produce more capable pet owners and do not deter irresponsible pet owners. There are those who should not be allowed to have even one pet, yet they can have three, five or, soon in Los Angeles 20+. Conversely, such laws can prevent law abiding citizens from offering a good home to a needy pet, can penalize a person who properly cares for pets and is mindful of neighbors, and can leave more animals in shelters and pounds.
Therefore, if Los Angeles wants to try this increase they should do so in a way that is easy to enforce and does not contribute to the breeding of more cats. Accordingly, the following must occur:
1. All cats must be sterilized.
2. All cats must have identification.
3. All cats must remain inside or in supervised/protected outdoor areas.
4. Foster cats are not owned pets and need not be counted and treated as such, but must be documented and efficiently tracked by the City. Foster cats should and would not be housed with owned cats in a proper foster setting.
5. The risk of hoarding need not be minimized. The City cites the “number of busts” as minimal and therefore not a factor. The truth is that the hoarding problem is epidemic. We try to work with the person to alleviate the situation and reserve the “bust” as a measure of last resort. Accordingly, the number of arrests is significantly fewer than the number of hoarding situations and is not illustrative of the problem.
6. The idea that the “clowder” fees will cover inspections without factoring in the increased calls resulting from mismanagement or nuisance complaints, is and will be a costly mistake. (A full blown hoarder investigation and prosecution will surely use up all the fees.)
I have respectfully requested that the City Council consider this decision carefully and that they keep the best interests of our cats and community in mind.