The Idaho Falls City Council plans to make several changes to its animal ordinance mostly aimed at reducing the number of stray cats, including requiring licenses for many cats.
Some of the changes are in record-keeping or minor ones in the ordinance language, such as replacing the word “spayed” and “neutered” with “altered” and adding a definition for “cat.” (“A cat of an age four months or older that is kept as a household pet,” which aligns it with the code definition of “dog.”)
Others could have an impact on pet owners:
n Cats will be required to be licensed, although cats that are fixed and have a registered microchip will be exempted from this requirement. Currently people can get their cats licensed voluntarily but it’s not required.
n Licenses will only be good for a year rather than three years.
n People getting a cat from the Idaho Falls Animal Shelter will have to buy a license for it.
n A cat that is impounded at the shelter more than twice in a year will have to be fixed before it can be reclaimed. The city already has this rule for dogs.
Licenses are $10 a year for altered animals, $30 for unaltered ones. One of the reasons for switching to yearly licenses instead of once every three years, said Animal Services Supervisor Irene Brown, is that the City Council raised the licensing fees this year — previously it was $6 for a three-year license for an altered animal and $12 for an unaltered one. Yearly licensing means pet owners won’t have to pay $30 or $90 up-front for the three years, Brown said.
Brown said the changes are meant to encourage people to get their cats microchipped and altered, and to help the city figure out how many cats there are in the city. Right now, she said, fees paid by dog owners end up paying for most of the city’s efforts to control stray cats.
“We seem to spend a lot more money on the cat issue than we do on the dogs, and it doesn’t seem fair for dog owners to have to meet that burden for cat owners,” she said. “We’re trying to get the cat owners to pay their share (and) also get a handle on which cats are owned and which aren’t.”
The city started a “trap, neuter and release” program for stray cats last year, and this already seems to be having some effect. Brown said the shelter has housed almost 700 fewer cats this year than it did last year.
The City Council had planned to vote on the proposal last week, but put it off until its upcoming meeting on Thursday because of a paperwork issue. At last week’s meeting, Council President Tom Hally praised the shelter for its work.
“A lot of people don’t realize there’s a lot of work in dealing with cats,” he said.
The new requirements, he said, would help the shelter with its goal of reducing the number of cats that are put down. Cat euthanasia has dropped drastically, from 71 percent of all cats brought to the shelter in 2015 to 17 percent this year.
“In the end, this reduces the number of cats that need to be killed,” he said.