County considers feline fees

LIHUE — Lihue resident Annette Oda thinks the Kauai County Council is clawing at the wrong topic on this one.

Cats.

Or more specifically, implementing fees to license felines.

The council is considering such a fee, and Oda thinks it’s an unenforceable rule that would be a waste of taxpayer money, not to mention the council’s time.

“Even the thought about licensing a cat, I mean, whoever started or initiated the bill apparently doesn’t understand the nature of a cat,” Oda said of the animals whose nature can be to disappear from their homes for days before returning. “You can’t treat a cat like a dog, so basically, I am really frustrated and disappointed that the county council would dare to spend valuable time and money, which is a scarcity in this day and age, on cats and dogs.”

More solid solutions, she said, could be forged through community dialogue.

But the county is considering treating cat owners just like dog owners by requiring them to license their animals every year.

Creating license fees is one way for the county to hold cat owners more responsible, it said. Uncontrolled feline populations can be a concern for the island’s well-being. Meanwhile, dog owners are already required to license their pets.

“If we don’t have a system to address cat and dog issues, the community will have many problems,” said Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who introduced the bill last week. “Cat licensing is a way to control the population of cats, because it’s tied to neutering — an uncontrolled population of cats is a public health, environmental and community concern.”

If passed, Bill 2517 would establish an annual and biennial cat licensing fee, as well as make it illegal for any person to own an unlicensed cat over four months old.

Annual license fees, according to a draft version of the bill, would be $10 for spayed or neutered cats and $30 for unneutered or unspayed cats. Residents could also opt to purchase biennial licenses at a reduced cost.

KHS workers will attempt to return all license-wearing cats turned into the humane society by contacting the owners through written and phone notices. If the cats are not picked up within nine days, the humane society may return them to whomever brought them in, offer it for adoption or euthanize it.

Unlicensed cats will be held for at least 48 hours.

All owners retrieving a cat from the humane society would also pay an impoundment fee of $12 per day.

The proposed law would also make it illegal for an owner to allow a cat over four months old to be at-large unless it has been sterilized by a veterinarian. If an impounded cat has not been sterilized, the cat’s owner will be charged a $25 redemption fee for the first offense, $50 for the second offense and $75 for additional offenses.

Cat owners, however, may have their animals sterilized by the Kauai Humane Society instead of paying a fee before it is returned to them.

Although the proposed law would require pet owners to spay or neuter cats that roam outside, KHS Executive Director Penny Cistaro said owners who only let their cats roam indoors would not be mandated to spay or neuter their animals.

The sterilization requirement in the law, she explained, is key to begin curbing the island’s feral cat population.

During the last fiscal year, Cistaro said 900 more stray cats than dogs were turned into KHS. In all, only about 10 percent of those cats, compared to 56 percent of the dogs, were retrieved from the humane society by their owners.

According to the draft bill, all fees collected by the ordinance would be appropriated to KHS for continuing the cat licensing fee program.

County Finance Director Steve Hunt said preliminary figures on how much revenue would be generated by the program has not been determined.

Kapaa resident Lonnie Sykos, who owns three cats, said he agrees with the underlying principle of the measure because it would make it easier for KHS workers to identify feral and domesticated cats either captured in the field or turned into the humane society.

“I don’t have any objections to licensing cats from the perspective that we have a huge problem with feral cats,” Sykos said. “How to balance the population of feral cats versus domestic cats is a thorny issue, but we need to come up with an objective way to deal with this and not a bunch of subjective guidelines that ultimately aren’t going to resolve the problem.”

The bill will be taken up during the council’s public meeting starting at 9 a.m.  Jan. 15 in the Historic County Building’s Council Chambers.

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