The Prince George's County Council voted yesterday to enact a broad new set of animal control regulations that will establish cat licensing fees for the first time and increase the cost of licensing dogs that are not spayed or neutered from $5 to $8.
The law, product of a decade of wrangling between the county humane society and animal owners, also will set up a stricter code of health standards and higher licensing fees for kennels, pet shops and petting zoos as well as fines ranging from $25 to $100 for violations.
In an 8-to-1 vote, council members overrode objections voiced by two pet owners at a public hearing yesterday. Only council Chairman William B. Amonett voted against the bill.
"I've sat in this council 11 years now, and the last 10 we've been attempting to pass some kind of animal control legislation," said council member Frank Casula. ". . . It's a start for Prince George's County to get something on the books that they don't have now."
Helena Poist, the president of the county's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Humane Society, said the new legislation brings Prince George's laws in line with surrounding jurisdictions.
The new licensing incentives for neutering and spaying could help in the long run to reduce the wild cat population in Prince George's, she said.
"Hundreds and hundreds of wild cats" are now loose in the county, she said.
"Our neighborhoods are literally being overrun," Poist said. "We're going to have almost more animals in the county than people."
The proposed fees were reduced after there were complaints that a $12 fee for animals that are not spayed or neutered would be too expensive for some owners.
Frances Kirsch of Silver Hill, who owns two Dalmatians, disagreed with the prevailing sentiment yesterday, saying that the new fees will constitute double taxation for those pet owners who already support animal control facilities through property taxes.
"The only people who pay the fee are the people who have been obeying the law all along," she said.
The council also wrestled yesterday with the politically touchy issue of increasing salaries for elected officials, but eventually rejected council member Floyd E. Wilson's plan to set up a commission to study the issue.
"The bottom line is you get what you pay for," said Wilson, who argued that the annual salary of more than $30,000 that council members now receive is based on the assumption that their work is part-time.
"The responsibilities of the council members have certainly changed from the time we ran at-large," agreed council member Hilda Pemberton. This council is the first one that has been elected by district.
But Wilson, Pemberton and Anthony Cicoria were the only ones who thought that asking for more money before an election year would be politic.
Cicoria argued that a study commission could well decide that a salary increase is not necessary.
"I couldn't sell that one to my 3-year-old granddaughter," cracked council member Sue V. Mills.
Mills, who voted against the bill, said the council jobs should be defined as part-time positions, to reduce the number of times the council meets. "When this body sits down to meet and pass a piece of legislation, the public is in trouble," she said.
The bill failed by a vote of 3 to 6.