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Ordinance could hasten cat euthanizations

Animal control officers could euthanize unlicensed cats as soon as they’re picked up, if an ordinance on the Spokane City Council’s agenda Monday passes. Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service is due to take over animal control in the city by 2010.

The proposed ordinance is the first step toward aligning pet regulations in the city and the county.

SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. has handled city animal control since 1984. For three years there has been a discrepancy between the Spokane municipal code – which calls for a 72-hour holding period for unlicensed cats – and SpokAnimal’s contract with the city, which requires no holding period.

“We are doing two things at once here: fixing a glitch with SpokAnimal’s contract and realigning our rules with the county’s,” said Dave Steele, Spokane’s real estate manager, who works on animal control issues for the city.

“There will be other tweaks as we get closer to the transition.”

Cheryl Mitchell, a Spokane attorney and animal rights activist, said the change could mean licensed cats get euthanized.

“Lots of outdoor cats lose their collars, and people think they are safe with a microchip, but they are not,” Mitchell said.

Gail Mackie, executive director of SpokAnimal, said only cats that are identified with a tag, sterilized and vaccinated against rabies are legal roamers.

“Cats with expired tags, microchips or other identification are given a courtesy hold of five days,” Mackie said in an e-mail about SpokAnimal’s current policy, adding that the length of the hold depends on how many unlicensed cats are in the shelter at the same time.

Cats with current licenses are held for 10 days.

SpokAnimal handled 566 cats in June. Only two were reclaimed by their owners. “That’s a pretty dismal picture,” Mackie said.

At SCRAPS, cats with any type of traceable ID – a microchip, a rabies tag or a pet tag from the store – are held for five days.

“We want to give the owner every opportunity to find the cat,” said Nancy Hill, executive director of SCRAPS. “I’m happy that the city is taking care of this. I’m all for uniform public policy; the rules should be same for people on both sides of the street.”

SCRAPS handled close to 5,000 cats last year, Hill said, and only 2 percent to 3 percent were claimed by owners.

“A license is required. People shouldn’t break the law,” Hill said. “We recommend a visual ID. People can’t see a microchip so that should be more of a backstop, but they can see a tag right away.”

Pia Hallenberg Christensen can be reached at (509) 459-5427 or

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