Monday, August 25, 2008

No Increase in Dog License Fee

A story in today's paper mentioned that the Administration proposed that we raise the dog license fee in order to reduce a $700,000 cost from our general fund to pay for dog warden activities.

Today, after a public hearing and much public input, (and despite a little confusion in the online story), the County Commission decided NOT to increase the dog license fee, but to instead explore other ways to get people to follow the law and register their dog.

Here are the basics of this issue:
- citizens are required by law to license their dogs
- the current fee is $13 per dog; this is a little less, but not by much, most of our surrounding and peer counties
- these dollars pay for dog warden activities that benefit both dog owners and the broader community
- fewer than 50,000 people have dog licenses, which we estimate is well less than 50% of total dog owners; some areas of the County comply at a rate of less than 15%
- mandated dog warden activities cost about $700,000 more than we receive through the license fees, so our general fund must make up that difference
- the proposal was to raise the dog license fee to $26 to try to cover that difference

After hearing input, and considering the issue, it came down to a simple business decision: we can make up the difference by doubling the rate on those who already pay for the dog license, or we can make up the difference by doing everything we can to get everyone else to obtain the dog license they are required to have.

We chose the latter. But in doing so, we proposed that the County and SPCA become far more proactive and creative in persuading people to do the right things and license their dogs, and explore: conducting promotions in partnership with private sector businesses in the pet "industry," and with dog-related events and locations; more public education overall; increasing the fines for NOT registering as required; targeted work in areas (such as the City of Cincinnati) that we know have the highest rate of noncompliance; and using the internet to promote and process licenses as easily as possible. Basically, promotion and enforcement.

The proposal to raise the price might in the short-run lead to an increase in revenue, but it might at the same time cause others to stop complying altogether. And those who haven't paid until now will be even less likely to do so in the future. Either way, it punishes those that are following the rules, in order to make up for those that are not.

We will produce a formal plan on our alternative approach in the coming months, but I am confident that with the right plan, we can greatly narrow the gap on folks who are not registering their dogs as they should. And this should also greatly reduce the amount of dollars we pay for dog warden services from the general fund.

Citizens ask us all the time to run government like a business--and today we did exactly that. As we do so, I welcome any other suggestions on how to improve the numbers on dog licenses?


Anonymous said...

How to improve? Stop the licensing requirement. It's absurd.

I will never license my dogs.

Quim said...

Cats don't pack.

Anonymous said...

A local tv station on their news story reported that not only was the doubling the dog license fee kaboshed, but now it will be halved for the law abiding dog owning citizen.

Can anyone verify this?

David Pepper said...

That's not accurate. We'll keep it at $13, and do all we can to increase the number of licenses.

Quim said...

Champaign county, to our north, just went through this debate. One of their solutions was:
"A new $75 fee was also created for cases in which law enforcement is called to assist the dog warden's office in picking up an aggressive dog"
Is this something we currently do ? Is it an option ? It would be charging problem owners directly and not punish good owners.


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