Dog tax brings new challenge to old problem
Apparently many people have not been paying the annual dog tax of $2 to $4, the amount of which depended upon the dog’s ability to have offspring. The license for a spayed or neutered dog was cheaper. Since many people weren’t paying the tax, the legislature has changed the process. Wonder what would happen if everyone ignored the IRS?
I know the dog tax wasn’t a big deal to most people. Township trustees were responsible for collecting that tax, but it was basically impossible to do unless the dog’s owner was upfront and willing to comply.
Many, many times I’ve heard the sad tale of the trustee who went visiting in his township to take inventory of taxable assets and collect the dog tax while he was there.
‘This your dog?’ he would ask the wary homeowner.
‘No sir, that’s not my dog,’ the man would say, giving the dog a swift kick to send the dog on his way. ‘Time to get on home now, Fido.’
Fido would amble slowly out of the way, with what could only be called a hang-dog look, and wait for the visitor to leave so he could return.
Eventually the legislature did away with trustees having to collect door to door. Instead, the property owner was supposed to mail the trustee a form listing taxable assets and enclosing payment for the dog.
Some people in Harrison County paid the dog tax every year. In 2005, the auditor’s office received $4,850 in dog taxes from trustees. Of that, $1,299 was paid to owners of livestock that had been killed by dogs. The state received $2,770 to use for animal research and $770 stayed in Harrison County for a humane society. That money could also be used for spay and neuter programs.
Under the new rules, Harrison County would keep $3,880 of the $4,850 and send 20 percent, or $970, to the state for research.
One scary part of the new legislation calls for the auditor to pay claims for livestock killed by dogs from unappropriated claims. That means the county council, which has the responsibility of watching over and controlling county spending, would have no say. Apparently, guidelines would be adopted to determine how and when specific amounts would be paid. When township trustees oversaw this expense, it came from the dog licenses that had been collected for that and other purposes.
Auditor Patricia Wolfe checked with other auditors in the state and found that many county councils have already adopted a new dog tax along with differing procedures to collect and disperse the money. The maximum tax allowed under the new law is $5 per dog. Seventy five cents of each license can be paid as a collection fee. Some have given the job to county treasurers while others have given the responsibility to veterinarians or animal control officers.
Obviously the council has another funding issue to decide, and council chair Gary Davis expects that issue to come up at budget setting time. It won’t be the biggest job they have ever tackled to be sure, but it is an important one. And the problem is not going to go away by itself.