Does cat licensing work?

At present, I think you could say with some confidence that cat licensing won’t work, or does not work sufficiently well but attitudes may change. This is because not enough people are willing to comply with it and local authorities are unable, for practical and financial reasons, to enforce licensing. Therefore non-compliance would continue to be very high, rendering the program unviable.

There are two examples that I know of. Without referring to notes, in Australia, there is at least one state or local authority which has introduced regulations for compulsory registration and the take-up has been very low. The authorities are hoping that over time people will get used of the idea but they are probably being overly optimistic. There is an attitude problem towards cat licensing.

In America, Mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed the licensing of cats in DC (Washington DC-the capital of the United States). David Smith, spokesman for the Humane Rescue Alliance makes the valid point that there would be a high level of non-compliance and non-enforcement rendering the policy meaningless.

He says that statistics inform us that there are 120,000 dogs in the District, possibly more, yet only a little more than 4,500 dogs are licensed with the DC Department of Health. This represents a very low 3.75% compliance rate. As the legal obligation to license your dog in DC has being in place for decades these statistics indicate an entrenched lack of desire for citizens to comply and a lack of will to enforce the law.

As there is a greater practical and commonsense need to license a dog for health and safety reasons which should place a greater obligation on dog owners, it would seem almost impossible to attain a high compliance rate for cat licensing. Therefore, the proposal is almost certainly impractical and some other method of controlling cat ownership would need to be proposed if that is what the local authority wish to do.

The idea of cat licensing comes up from time to time because local authorities want to try and control the number of cats. This is because arguably there are too many unwanted cats and there are too many feral cats in America. But despite the fact that the idea of cat licensing has come up regularly over the years, it has never been widely introduced which is indicative of the decisions of local authorities that it is unworkable.

However, clearly the idea of cat licensing is not a complete write-off because it is obligatory to license your cat in Seattle, King County, Washington, USA. I’d expect that there will be other places in the USA but not many. I don’t have statistics on compliance rates or how efficiently it is enforced. The advantage of cat licensing is that the money raised can go towards providing essential services to improve cat and animal welfare such as free spay and neuter clinics and mobile veterinary clinics. The money could also be used to run TNR programs.

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