Animal Services wants to increase annual licensing fees for pet owners by $2 to $4 and end some senior discounts, a move its director says is needed to offset flat revenue and increased costs.
The higher fees would provide about $29,000 in additional revenue, according to Susanne Beauregard. Animal Services sells about 17,000 licenses every year; she figures that covers only about one-quarter of the pets in the county.
Of course, the agency would raise more money if everyone licensed their pets, but Beauregard said short staffing is among the reasons that license enforcement isn’t a front-burner priority. She added that Animal Services’ licensing officer keeps plenty busy processing information, confirming microchip numbers and keeping phones and computers at the center working. There is a fine for having an unlicensed pet, but Animal Services gives owners ample time before issuing a citation, Beauregard said.
Law enforcement often responds to issues bigger than licensing, such as reports of dangerous dogs, Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza said. He added that the Sheriff’s Office leaves confining animals and issuing citations to Animal Services.
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Beauregard said it has been eight years since the most recent fee increase, and recent budgets have relied on one-time fixes, including $60,000 in donations last year.
Other agencies across the state have had to eliminate some vaccinations due to funding cuts, a scenario Beauregard doesn’t want to see.
Pet owners have mixed feeling about the proposed increase. Chatting with desk workers at Animal Services, Carmen Olson of Olympia said she’s ready to pay higher fees.
“I think it’s worth it because they do a lot of work here,” she said.
Walking three dogs at the Thurston County off-leash dog park Thursday morning, Carrie Krier said she doesn’t agree with increases during tough times.
“With the economy and everything, every little penny counts,” she said.
Krier owns Dog Tales, a pet-sitting and dog walking service, and says more than half of the 200 or so dogs she works with are licensed. She has talked with clients who don’t license their dogs and they have told her they see fees and increases as just out to get more money.
Krier supports licensing and the mission of Animal Services, though she says the agency can be a bit stringent on leash laws.
Lily Shevchuk of Lacey came to Animal Services on Wednesday afternoon to see if her missing dog, a licensed, 3-year-old terrier mix, had shown up. She said an increase wouldn’t be a burden.
“All these people who work here work hard they deserve it,” she said.
Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476, email@example.com, www.theolympian.com/outsideoly