Sita Makes Front Page of the Daily News


Ed Muzika, who has an animal blog, has long proposed lifting the restraints on pet owners to allow them to have more dogs or cats in their homes. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)



Ed Muzika has cat companions wandering about his Northridge house, a den full of kitty doodads and the remains of nine feline friends on his mantle.

But given his druthers, he'd have even more cats to keep him company.
"This is Cat Central, with all three cats," said Muzika, 63, as Radha, Sita and Dustin give visitors the once-over. "I want more.

"I want to rescue these guys."

Muzika may get his wish, if two City Council members and the new head of Animal Services can succeed in raising the legal limit for dog and cat ownership.

The motion, introduced in June by Councilmen Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz, would increase the number of allowed pets from three dogs and/or cats to five of each.

A town hall meeting to discuss the proposal will be held tonight at the East Valley Animal Shelter; another is scheduled next Wednesday in West Los Angeles.

Neither Rosendahl nor Koretz responded to a request for comment.

Supporters of the plan say it could help reduce the crush of abandoned animals at city shelters, which have seen a 20 percent jump since the start of the recession, and spare them from euthanasia. In addition, they say up to $800,000 more in canine registration fees could help city coffers.

"We want to give people the opportunity to help save the lives of these animals," said Brenda Barnette, general manager of the Department of Animal Services, who supports the measure.
"My research


shows that communities that have increased or have no pet limits, they're saving more animals' lives, with no more incidence of barking or fighting dogs."

Opponents disagree, and argue that boosting pet limits could increase the legal pet population by millions of dogs and cats across Los Angeles, adding to its problem of surplus animals.

They say the potential legion of extra pets would not only increase noise, parasites, pollution and nuisances to neighbors, but lower property values.

This month, the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles wrote a letter to City Hall expressing its opposition to the plan.

"There are serious issues of increased dog barking and other animal noises, fleas, parasites and rodents, sanitation, odor and animals escaping yards and causing dangers/nuisance to tenants," wrote James Clarke, executive director of the association.

Another resident wrote to complain of neighbors' numerous cats using her garden as a latrine.

Critics note that the motion, as written, would allow up to 10 dogs and cats per "resident," meaning virtually unlimited pets in every household. Advocates counter the motion will be rewritten to state pet limits for every "residence" instead.

"This will set us back 20 years," said Phyllis Daughherty, director of the Animal Issues Movement in Los Angeles, another group that opposes the proposal. "It's cruel to the animals. It's cruel to people who will have dog packs in the streets.

"L.A. will be known as the Barking City. There will be howling in the streets - by dogs. (And) everyone will be howling at this to City Hall."

Because of more potential dog and cat waste flushed down city storm drains, as well as more potential pet attacks on wildlife, Daugherty is pushing for a full environmental impact report.

Pet increase backers, meanwhile, point to the many scofflaws who already own more than the allowed number of pets. They say raising the legal limit will really benefit rescuers and other pet owners who will legally be able to care for them.

"More people are turning in animals (to shelters) because they can't afford them, so I don't expect many people to have five dogs or five cats," said Michael Bell, an animal welfare advocate in Encino. "It's the rescuers who want to do that."

In the battle over limits on companion pets, advocates point to such cities as Santa Monica and San Diego, with liberal thresholds on allowable dogs and cats, and corresponding lower euthanasia rates with no adverse animal nuisances to residents.

Barnette said L.A.'s six animal shelters have a comparable dog and cat impound rate to San Diego, which allows up to six dogs and unlimited cats per home. But while L.A. kills nearly one out of four dogs and six out of 10 cats that end up in city shelters, she said San Diego euthanizes 18 percent of its dogs and 46 percent of its cats.

"So there's a huge difference there in the number of animals that you can save," she said. "And the interesting thing is, there was no effect on the city."

Daugherty countered that because of the city's rampant canines, San Diegans suffered 2,277 dog bites in 2007, according to news reports.

Muzika, who runs a watchdog blog about Animal Services, said the many Angelenos who now have too many dogs and cats are subject to harassment by neighbors or ex-spouses, and take up valuable manpower from Animal Services officer who must answer their complaints.

He said studies report 740,000 homes in L.A. have cats, with 2.3 per household. Raise the limit to five, he said, and rescuers and animal foster homes can take in 2 million more cats - legally.

"When I lived in Santa Monica, I had eight cats," Muzika said. "I loved 'em. But here, three legally and I'm subject to harassment by neighbors who don't like me - or my cats."


Anonymous said...

I live in the City of Los Angeles and have three cats. I live by myself in a 2,500 sq. ft. home on 1.1 acres in a very expensive part of town. My house is always very orderly and clean. My cats' litter boxes actually sparkle.

Two months ago I saw a wonderful cat someone was trying to network on Facebook. He was at the South LA shelter. I see a lot of cats up for adoption all the time. This one really triggered my heart strings because he looked exactly like my first cat ever. I even went to visit him at the shelter. I took photos, videos and tried to network him. He was just so incredibly sweet, even in the harsh shelter environment.

I would have taken him but I already had three cats. I never break the law but I was really tempted. I even thought about putting him up at a kennel until I could find him a home. The cat was euthanized two days before his due date because he caught a cold.

I feel horrible. He could have had a wonderful life in my house. My cats get the best veterinary care, food, toys and so much love. I've grieved for that cat ever since.

If someone has the means, let them have one or two more cats. My cats are indoors. How does that affect anyone else? You don't see me telling my neighbors to only have three kids. One neighbor has six kids which are always yelling and screaming. I can't even complain about that but someone could report me for having over three cats.

Marc said...

There is one word that precisely describes what they are doing. Here's a hint; It's spelled M-U-R-D-E-R and it's first degree pre-meditated murder.