For the first time, the city of Mountain View is poised to require that pet cats be licensed. The City Council voted Tuesday to replace its 1972 animal control ordinance with one requiring that cats, just like dogs, be licensed, among other rules.
New rules will also affect those with dogs or beehives, among other animals.
The ordinance is based on a model ordinance proposed by the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority, recently adopted by Santa Clara and being considered by Campbell. It passed 6-1, with Mayor John Inks opposed, though several members were hesitant to require the licensing of cats.
"I question the licensing of cats, I don't know why we are doing that," said council member Jac Siegel, who is also now the chair of SVACA's board. "There hasn't been a rabies outbreak or situation in Santa Clara County caused by a dog or cat. I'm not sure what problem we are trying to solve."
The cat license, which also requires a rabies vaccine, costs $10 for a year, $26 for three years or $50 for a lifetime. Owners of cats that are not spayed or neutered must pay a higher $50-per-year fee.
Police Capt. Max Bosel said licensing cats is "a common and best practice" while SVACA director Dan Soszynski said one reason for the license requirement is to improve the number of stray cats returned to their owners.
"Cats are returned to owner at rate of 10 percent, dogs at a rate of 50 percent," Soszynski said. "There is only a 96 hours stray hold period -- a lot of people don't realize their cat's gone."
Siegel also questioned the practicality of requiring cats to wear a collar with registration tags because a collar could get caught on a fence. Soszynski said "break-away" collars are available that come off in such situations.
Downtown resident Bruce Karney, who keeps a beehive in his yard, spoke in favor of the ordinance's new rules for beehives, which say owners must keep them 10 feet from a property line unless written permission is given by a neighbor, and 20 feet from the street.
The ordinance is more expansive to ensure the "humane care and treatment of animals" a city staff members said. It makes it illegal to "tether" animal for extended periods, allows animal buyers to return them to sellers who don't disclose health problems and has more insurance requirements for owners of dogs considered dangerous. Dangerous animals' owners must also be physically strong enough to control their dogs under the new rules.
A second vote, set for June 11, is required before the new rules can take effect.