Dog & cat licensing compliance, costs, and effects

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2002:

Regulations of any kind seldom succeed unless a large
majority of the people or institutions to be regulated are already
voluntarily in compliance or willing to become compliant with
relatively little nudging at the time that the regulations start to
be enforced. If more than a small percentage object to a regulation
enough to become scofflaws, the enforcement burden becomes
overwhelming, and the regulation eventually tends to be ignored or

Data gleaned from the ANIMAL PEOPLE files about dog and cat
licensing indicates that it follows the trend. Because compliance
with pet licensing tends to be less than a third of the 90%
compliance rate that is usually the minimum needed for regulations to
be within the reach of effective routine enforcement, there is no
demonstrable relationship between the rates of licensing compliance
claimed by animal control agencies in eight representative cities
whose data ANIMAL PEOPLE examined and their rates of dog and cat
killing per 1,000 human residents:

Dog/cat licensing rates Killed/1,000
Tucson 57% 42.9
Chicago 25% 18.2
Philadelphia 25% 19.7
Seattle 25% 11.2
San Francisco 15% 2.6
Salt Lake City 13% 9.9
Fort Worth 10% 32.1
Milwaukee 10% 10.5
U.S. average 28% 16.8

There is a demonstrable relationship between compliance and
the cost of a license. The lowest license fees, on average, are
charged in the Northeast, including the New England states, New
York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and these states do appear to
have the highest rates of licensing compliance. The next lowest fees
are charged in the Midwest, with the next highest rates of
compliance. The highest fees are charged in the West, whose
compliance rate is only two-thirds of the rate in the Northeast.
However, contrary to the findings of single-city surveys
done mostly in the 1970s and 1980s, before the majority of owned
dogs and cats in the U.S. were sterilized, charging markedly higher
fees to license unaltered animals appears to create a disincentive to
licensing more than to encourage more people to get their pets fixed.
The lowest differential between the average cost of licensing
intact versus altered dogs is in the Northeast, which as well as
having the highest rate of licensing compliance also has a shelter
killing rate of approximately half the national average.
The widest differential is in the West, where shelter
killing rates range from some of the lowest in the U.S., along the
West Coast, to some of the highest, in the Southwest. The next
widest differential is in the South, with the lowest licensing
compliance and shelter killing rates tending to run between two and
three times the U.S. norm.
The Midwest, with a relatively low licensing differential
and relatively high compliance, has shelter killing rates which
mostly cluster just above the U.S. norms.

West Midwest Northeast South
Dog licence, intact:
$28.21 $11.72 $ 9.72 $17.86
Dog license, altered:
$10.50 $ 4.70 $ 4.58 $ 5.93
Dog licensing compliance:
24% 28% 32% 10%

The dog licensing sample size per region was in the low
dozens, rougly proportionate to human population distribution, and
appeared to be representative of both urban and rural areas.
Cat licensing is still so rare and compliance so low that the
data is inherently suspect, coming from only about 25% as many
jurisdictions as the dog licensing data.
Nonetheless, it seems to follow the same general
pattern–except that ANIMAL PEOPLE was unable to identify any
jurisdiction in the Southern states which has tried to license cats.

West Midwest Northeast South
Cat license, intact:
$20.00 $ 9.67 $ 8.20 n/a
Cat license, altered:
$ 7.00 $ 7.00 $ 4.60 n/a
Cat licensing compliance:
15% 2% n/a n/a

The oldest regulatory approach to pet overpopulation,
directed at preventing public nuisances rather than at preventing
animal suffering, was to limit the number of dogs and/or cats per
home. This approach has recently been dusted off and pushed again
here and there as a purported defense against backyard breeders and
animal hoarders.
There is no evidence that it has ever worked, or will work,
since enforcing pet limits is as difficult as enforcing licensing.
However, ANIMAL PEOPLE was able to identify the threshholds
at which all but a few dog and cat keepers would comply with pet
limits. The table below shows at left the percentages of pet keepers
who keep common numbers of animals, and shows at right the
percentages of animal control ordinances that set limits at each
Limits restricting the number of dogs per household to four
or fewer, and the number of cats per household to six or fewer,
would appear to start out with high enough compliance that effective
enforcement might be possible, at least in theory.

Dogs/household Limits allow
62% / one 2% / one
25% / two 26% / two
7% / three 35% / three
6% / four+ 20% / four
4% / five
4% / six

Cats/household Limits allow
48% / one n/a
28% / two 19% / two
11% / three 38% / three
13% / four+ 24% / four
8% / five
5% / six

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