Bill would have required Coloradans to register their pets, at $8.50 each

A bill in Colorado would have required pet owners to pay to register all their furry or scaly friends with the state. While the bill was fortunately withdrawn, the intriguing sentiment among lawmakers is not new.

House Bill 1163, sponsored by Rep. Regina English (D-Colorado Springs), would have required the state Agriculture Commissioner to “develop, implement, and maintain an online companion animal registration system” by July 1, 2025. I Colorado pet owners would. they will then be required to register each of their pets with the state for a maximum cost of $8.50 each, or $16 for dogs or cats that are not spayed or neutered. Pet owners should also “designate a person to care for their animals” in case of an emergency; any animal without a designated caregiver would cost $25 per year.

The bill defines “companion animal” to include cats, dogs, hamsters, gerbils, fish, rodents, reptiles, and “any other species of wild, domestic, or hybrid animal, six months of age or older, that is sold, transferred or kept for the purpose of being kept as a pet.”

At a minimum, the database should capture the name, address, email address, and cell phone number of both the pet owner and designated caregiver, as well as the name, age, and breed of each animal pet and if the pet is dangerous.

According to the bill’s text, the database would function as a next-of-kin notification, where first responders could “locate and contact the caregiver” if a pet owner is killed or incapacitated.

But it’s unclear whether such intrusion into pet owners’ personal lives is justified or necessary.

After all, police handle notifications to next-of-kin of humans without requiring a centralized state database. Although pets are an important part of many people’s lives, it is the owner’s responsibility to provide care for them in an emergency. For example, many sellers offer “In Case of Emergency” stickers that not only tell rescuers how many animals are inside but also provide an emergency contact number.

Colorado’s database pricing structure is also onerous. The law defines “companion animal” so broadly to include any animal excluding livestock. A child with a hamster would cost his parents $8.50 a year. But what happens if the hamster gives birth? A hamster litter box can hold a dozen or more “pups” — so should owners pay the state an additional $102 and register a close friend’s contact information when the hamsters reach six months old?

Although Colorado’s bill is dead — English told a local news outlet he has withdrawn the legislation — many cities and counties already require pet registration.

Denver, for example, requires residents to register any dog ​​or cat over the age of six months. Fulton County, Georgia, which includes part of Atlanta, also requires owners to register their dogs and cats, as does Maricopa County, Arizona. Los Angeles, however, requires registration of dogs and horses.

Supporters argue that registration offers a benefit to both animals and their owners, for example by allowing animal control officers to quickly determine how to reunite a lost dog or cat with its family. But a collar tag serves exactly the same purpose, costs only a few dollars, and doesn’t require you to provide any information to a state agency.

Considering that many jurisdictions, including those mentioned above, require displaying a license tag on your pet’s collar, it’s unclear what function the license serves that a $5 tag from PetSmart wouldn’t do as well. Additionally, pets are routinely microchipped, allowing the veterinarian to quickly find the contact information of the lost pet’s owner.

Local governments have the right to ensure, for example, that dogs are vaccinated against rabies, a deadly, transmissible disease that can spread to both animals and humans. And it makes sense to assign wildlife or animal control officers to watch out for dangerous animals, pets or otherwise, that could harm people or their pets.

But otherwise, aside from extreme cases of abuse and neglect, the general day-to-day care of pets is the responsibility of the pet owner, not the state or local government. While no doubt well-intentioned, Colorado’s bill, like others across the country, represented an unnecessary state intrusion into the lives of pet owners.

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