Nothing but the Dog (or the Chicken) in Me

In D.C. Mayor Bowser's 2018 budget is a proposal requiring Cats licensing.  Animal-welfare advocates say the plan is needless and burdensome. After a week of community outcry, Mayor Bowser has pulled the proposal.

Marie Drissel says in her 60 years advocating for animal welfare in the District; she’s not encountered a proposal more absurd than Mayor Muriel Bowser’s call to license cats in D.C.  “This is the dumbest, stupidest legislation I have ever read,” Drissel said on Friday at the Wilson Building, where she plans to testify against the proposal during a budget oversight hearing. “I can’t even believe I’m here.”

Buried within a package of bills accompanying the mayor’s proposed 2018 budget, the legislation — which also includes a
controversial measure to ban backyard chickens — would apply the city’s dog licensing standards to cats. That means residents who own cats over four months old would be required to obtain an annual license, at the cost of $15 to $50 per year.

David Smith, a spokesperson for the Humane Rescue Alliance, says the city already has enough trouble persuading pet owners to license their dogs. Mandatory cat licensing would likely be rebuffed, too.

“Our best statistics indicate that there’s a minimum of 120,000 dogs living in homes in the District, likely more, and just over 4,500 licensed with the D.C. Department of Health,” Smith said. “That’s, at best, a 3.75 percent compliance rate for a law that has been on the books for decades. [Cat licensing] makes no sense.”

Under the new rules, District cats would also be required to wear a collar and a license. That’s a tall order, Drissel says.
“I have two kittens right now, Venus and Serena,” Drissel said. “They spend all their time making sure that they don’t keep their little collars on.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Mayor Bowser says cat licensing would “directly benefit the health and well-being of cats, as well as the public.” The statement reads, “Cat licenses will ensure cats owners vaccinate against diseases … [and] decrease the number of animals that are impounded and housed at the animal shelter.”

Smith says he has not seen evidence that supports either claim. He adds the mayor’s office did not contact the Humane Rescue
Alliance, the District’s primary animal-welfare organization, before drafting the language.

“This took animal-welfare advocates completely by surprise,” Smith said.

The mayor’s proposed budget is scheduled for a Council vote later this month.

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