A controversial new animal control ordinance won't be approved in Mountain View without some significant changes, City Council members said Tuesday.
In a study session, council members took straw votes on controversial parts of the ordinance, including a portion that would have required cat licenses and an annual rabies vaccination.
"As to the question of whether cats need rabies shots or not, if it's not settled in the minds of veterinary professionals, it's not my place to make the decision," said council member Ronit Bryant, echoing the opinion of much of the council.
With member Mike Kasperzak absent, the council was unanimous in opposing the rabies vaccinations requirements, a complete turn-around. The council had approved the requirements along with the rest of the ordinance in June before community uproar over the cat license and rabies vaccine requirement prevented a second vote that would have made the ordinance official.
Council member Jac Siegel recalled talking to a veterinarian at Adobe Animal Hospital about the issue. "They don't automatically say you need a rabies shot," Siegel said. The veterinarian had "never seen a case where someone had been bitten by a cat. I think it's problem we don't need to solve."
The requirement would have meant cat owners in violation would be subject to an "administrative citation" and a fine, a lesser punishment than an infraction or misdemeanor, and which would have been handled by the city's new animal control services provider, Santa Clara-based Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority.
Council members also killed a requirement that cats in Mountain View be licensed at a cost of $10 a year (an effort to increase low rates of returning lost cats), but left the option available for residents. Council members examined the possibility of requiring cats to be micro-chipped to allow them to be returned to their owners, then informally voted to keep the option available on a voluntary basis.
According to a survey of over 700 residents, only 23 percent percent said rabies vaccinations should be required for indoor cats. For outdoor cats, 43 percent of residents said the vaccination should be required. Only 6 percent of cat owners said they had licensed their cat.
Residents at a community meeting strongly opposed the cat licenses, and on Tuesday told the council that there has not been a case of a cat with rabies in Santa Clara or the state of California for many years. They said that veterinarians don't always recommend the vaccination, which is said to cause health problems for some cats.
In a survey of 67 animal control providers around the country it was found that 92 percent of their "veterinary medical experts" recommend requiring rabies vaccinations for all cats, but only 55 percent actually require it. Only 39 percent of the providers required cat licenses.
At the urging of some residents, council members considered expanding the number of dogs and cats allowed in a household from four to six, but decided to leave the limit at four, as it has been for years.
"It's something we don't need to solve right now, it's working," Siegel said of the policy, enforcement of which is "complaint-driven."
Council member John McAlister opposed the limit on the number of dogs and cats in a household after asking questions about what would happen if a dog or cat has a litter of puppies or kittens. City staff members said owners would be able to keep the litter for up to four months.
Council members also supported a prohibition on dogs in city buildings, clarifying a portion of the ordinance that would have kept dogs off "city property." City staff members said the intent was to keep them out of city buildings. Animals would be allowed with a permit or permission from the city manager. Service animals always would be allowed.
Some council members said the city should follow the lead of local companies that allow dogs in their offices.
"If city employees bring dogs into the workplace, it's certainly acceptable to me," Bryant said.
Mayor John Inks voted against most of the provisions, saying the new ordinance was unnecessary.
An official vote on the entire ordinance will happen at a later date.