The Madera County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 July 24 to not proceed with the implementation of an ordinance that would have required all cats to receive rabies shots and be licensed with the county. If written, the ordinance would have made not adhering to these rules punishable by law.
The board voted 4-1 in favor of the ordinance on July 10, with District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler strongly against the proposal.
It was the second hearing on feline licensing that would have given animal control the power to cite cat owners if their pets were not licensed with the county and up to date with rabies vaccines. Even though the cat licensing fees were approved by the board in 2000, county counsel never moved forward with changes to the ordinance according to Kirsten Gross, Madera County Animal Services director.
District 1 Supervisor Frank Bigelow said that there were some good components in the document presented them, but moved that licensing be a voluntary action and that rabies be stricken said to strike rabies vaccinations from the ordinance. District 2 Supervisor David Rogers seconded the motion.
At the first meeting, District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler was the only one to oppose the ordinance but at the second hearing the other supervisors had some questions of their own.
District 3 Supervisor Ronn Dominici questioned non-compliance of the ordinance being a misdemeanor. The ordinance states that "failure of the veterinarian" ... (or) authorized person to submit a completed certificate of vaccination to the owner or to deliver copies of vaccination certificates to the Animal Services Department is a misdemeanor." Gross responded by saying that 99% of these cases would be dropped to infractions instead of misdemeanors.
Wheeler, who had previously asked the public to stand against the ordinance amendment, said he had received letters opposing it but none for it.
With no feline rabies cases in the county for at least the last 10 years, Wheeler said this is not an issue for the county. With hard economic times the way they are, Wheeler said he could not see enforcing a high tax such as this.
Gross noted that there are 18 other California counties require cat licensing but Wheeler noted the 40 other counties that don't require it. Gross said animal control's main concern was to keep animals and humans from getting rabies but Wheeler said, with no feline cases in the county, that is not an issue.
District 2 Supervisor David Rogers said that when they heard about the issue at the previous meeting it was confusing and unclear and in light of learning more about the issue, he was against licensing cats.
"I have a cat, rather the cat has me, and it's really hard to control cats as part of the population, especially feral cats," Rogers said.
When the floor was open for public comment, Don Burkes, of North Fork, addressed the board of supervisors.
"This is just another intrusion by local government into my pocket book," he said. "The fiscal impact on the average taxpayer in Eastern Madera County would be heavy. You know the demographics. I don't get a whole lot of money. Money is very important to me, as well as a lot of folks that live up there. This (cats) is their family. They might even be sharing a can of cat food with their animals because they just don't have the money."
Sarah Rah, of North Fork, affirmed what Burkes said.
"I have a number of friends that are extremely limited and sometimes down to 35 cents at the end of the month and these fees are extremely erroneous," Rah told the board before the board voted against the ordinance.