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COLUMBIA — Data shows cats are less likely to be licensed than dogs. 

According to data from the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, in 2015 (through Oct. 31) 2,914 licenses were sold. Out of 2,914 licenses only 442 cat licenses were sold. 

•In 2013 a total of 3,246 licenses were sold (2,692 dog licenses / 554 cat licenses). 

•In 2014 a total of 3,316 licenses were sold (2,771 dog licenses / 545 cat licenses).

•Through October 31, 2015, a total of 2,914 licenses were sold (2472 dog licenses / 442 cat licenses)

*The license totals include one, two and three-year licenses.  

In Tuesday’s city council meeting, Councilman Ian Thomas brought up cat licenses. He estimated only 2 percent of cats are licensed and only 10 percent of dogs are licensed. 

According to the City of Columbia Code of Ordinances, all cats and dogs over the age of 3 months must be licensed. It also states no person is allowed to keep any unlicensed dog or cat over 3 months of age.  

Thomas is asking the Board of Health to review the current ordinances involving the licensing of pet cats. He wanted to know if there is a value in requiring cat licenses, whether roaming cats should be illegal, and if it is reasonable to force owners to quarantine their pets away from home if they bite someone.

These questions come after a cat owner, Brendon Steenbergen, filed a complaint and said it was unfair his cat, that did not have rabies, faced impoundment for 10 days.

Steenbergen was required by city ordinance to quarantine his cat because it was not licensed. He explained to KOMU 8 News over the phone his friend was watching his cat Betty while on vacation and Betty bit her. He said Betty has a history of biting him at home. 

Steenbergen said he didn’t know cats needed a license. Betty only had her vaccinations, not a license. Because Betty did not have a city license, she did not meet the requirements to be quarantined at home. 

Steenbergen decided to get a license after he was notified Betty needed one. He said animal control wouldn’t accept that because the cat did not have a license prior to the bite. A license that would have cost him $11. 

He said animal control told him he would have to pay “$500 a day or possibly face jail time” if he did not comply. After complying, Steenbergen said he paid $160 for boarding and a rabies examination. 

According to the city of Columbia’s website, in Columbia “any dog or cat which bites, injures, or attacks any person shall be immediately impounded by the Animal Control Division for a period of 10 days.” 

However, there are exceptions to this rule. If a dog or cat has a current rabies vaccination, a city license issued prior to the time of the bite, was not running loose at the time of the bite, does not have a history of biting people, and if the owner agrees to take the animal to a licensed veterinarian 10 days after the bite for a physical then they will not be impounded by the Animal Control Division. An animal must meet all of the requirements in order for it not to be impounded. 

Instead of impoundment, “owners may be allowed to keep the animal at home for the 10 day quarantine period provided the animal has a current rabies vaccination administered by a licensed veterinarian prior to the date of the bite and if there has been no past history of biting or running loose,” according to the city’s website. 

The Boone County Ordinance does not require licenses; however, it does require that all dogs or cats over 3 months of age be vaccinated against rabies by a veterinarian. 

Veterinarian Greg Chapman from Noah’s Ark Animal Hospital and Bird Clinic said he can’t speak for all cat owners, but he said stray dogs without a license usually get picked up more by animal control than cats. 

“Cats, as a stray cat, cause they’re so many outside cats living in Columbia are not picked up typically by animal control. Unless there’s been a bite situation or a nuisance or there’s some type of danger, then they might be picked up then. So I’m gonna assume that most people don’t do it because cats aren’t going to typically be picked up by animal control,” Chapman said. 

Chapman also said typically if people have an outdoor cat, they are more likely to have their cat licensed. Chapman said he believes it’s fair for the person who has been bitten that animals go to the pound or be quarantined. 

“Rabies is fatal, period,” Chapman said. “The end. So it doesn’t matter in some ways whether the cat or dog has been vaccinated for rabies, they need to be observed because not all vaccines are 100 percent, and so they need to be quarantined either at home or an animal care facility. Because that is a contagion that will kill you.”

The Board of Health will take a look at Thomas’ request at its meeting on Jan. 12, 2017.