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Animal Services fees going up

By March 1, 2011

El Dorado County Animal Services has not increased its fees in several years. Animal Services proposed a number of fee increases during a Feb. 28 El Dorado County Board of Supervisors’ public hearing, where they were passed and will go into effect April 1.

Not all of Animal Services fees were recommended for an increase, and some fees were proposed to increase by a fairly small amount, according to Henry Brzezinski, chief of Animal Services.

The fee to adopt a small animal (such as a rabbit) remained the same, at $15, cat adoption fees rose from $75 to $80 and dog adoption fees increased from $90 to $120. The fee to license an altered dog was increased from $15 to $20 for a one-year license and from $35 to $50 for a three-year license.

“For most residents the new fees will represent a minor or modest increase,” said Brzezinski. “Every effort was made to give responsible pet owners the lowest fees.”

A number of significant fee increases were also proposed and approved, according to Brzezinski. These increases were most prominent in situations where a household has had repeated violations for allowing their animals to roam loose in the community, and for dangerous dog and unaltered dog licenses. Fees for kennel licenses were also raised substantially, as well as fines for not having a current dog license.

Brzezinski strongly advises pet owners who do not have a current dog license to stop by their local veterinarian or the Animal Services office to obtain one before the fees go up on April 1. State law requires that all dogs over the age of 4 months have proof of a current rabies vaccination and a county license.

To prepare for the fee hearing with the board, staff in Animal Services completed an analysis of its operations (personnel, indirect and overhead, supervision and equipment costs) and benchmarked its fees against prevailing fees charged in surrounding counties.

“What we found was that our county was not recovering an appropriate portion of costs from the public for some of the services,” said Brzezinski. “If we don’t recover these costs through appropriate fees, then the taxpayers end up picking up the difference. When it comes to something like a pet owner choosing to keep a dangerous dog, for example, we feel they should be paying for the cost instead of passing that on to the taxpayer.

“Fees for issuing dangerous dog licenses were increased because the process involved is very labor intensive,” Brzezinski continued. “If a dog has a documented history of biting or being aggressive, the owner may go to court to try to keep the dog. If the dog is officially deemed dangerous or vicious through the court process, the owner must comply with numerous requirements. Animal Services officers must prepare and present information for the court, interview witnesses and neighbors, inspect the property (usually at least twice during the first year the license is issued), prepare reports and documents, review these with the owner, enter information into the computer system, etc.”

The fee to license an unaltered dog was increased substantially, going from $35 to $100 per year.

“Counties place a high fee on licenses for unaltered dogs because these dogs are more likely to create problems in communities, which our officers end up dealing with,” said Brzezinski. “Unaltered dogs have a stronger instinct to roam, they are involved in the majority of animal bites (statistics show that 85 percent of bites involve unaltered male dogs) and they have the capacity to breed and increase the population of unwanted pets.”

Fees for animal kennel licenses, particularly commercial licenses, were also increased significantly.

“Previously, we were not passing on our full cost to the kennel owner,” said Brzezinski. “The kennel fees were raised to better recover the costs associated with officer time in issuing the licenses, which involve inspection of the property, report preparation, and other activities.”

As part of the fee hearing, Animal Services proposed a new adoption hold fee. The hold fee will allow individuals who have found a cat or dog and taken it to the shelter the opportunity to place a hold on it. This fee, $44 for a dog and $35 for a cat, will give the individual a one-day priority for adopting the animal when it is available for adoption.

According to Brzezinski, in addition to the fee increases, Animal Services has taken steps to improve their efficiencies and has absorbed a number of staff cuts over the past three years.

Animal Services responds to 9,000 to 10,000 animal related calls, complaints and emergencies from residents each year. The agency strives to ensure the safety of the community by investigating dog bites and dangerous dog complaints, preventing the spread of rabies and responding to animal neglect and abuse, among other things.

For additional information about Animal Services or to see the complete list of fee increases visit www.edcgov.us/animalservices.

Special to Village Life


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