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‘Dog tax’ could be back in 2013

Harrison Countians may again see a ‘dog tax’ or pet licensing fee in the near future, possibly as early as Jan. 1.
The second meeting of the temporary advisory committee created to study animal control in the county and to decide how best to move forward with it took place Friday afternoon at the Harrison County Government Center in Corydon.
Animal control officer Bruce LaHue led the meeting, which also included committee members Chris Timberlake, a county councilman; Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye; Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk; Kate Rieger, a concerned citizen of Harrison County and animal control facility volunteer; and Carl (Buck) Mathes, a county commissioner.
Other committee members who were not present include Tony Combs, Harrison County Health Department coordinator; Greg Reas, Harrison County Emergency Management Agency director; Tanya Tuell, Harrison County Spay/Neuter volunteer coordinator; Cindy Hiser, president of HEART local animal advocacy group; and Dr. Ron Smith, a veterinarian from Ramsey.
LaHue said that, at the current rate, animal control operations are unsustainable and he estimated the department will run out of money by August or late September.
To fully operate the department the way LaHue would like, it would take a yearly budget of $180,000, he said.
The current budget for animal control is $120,000.
The group agreed that one way to help stem the animal population in the county is to enact a pet licensing fee for dogs and cats by creating an animal licensing ordinance. The Harrison County Board of Commissioners would have to create and approve such an ordinance.
‘It’s what other people have done to make the problem better,’ LaHue said.
LaHue said the goal is to have it approved by July and put into effect by Jan. 1 of next year.
Mathes said he’s ready to move forward with the ‘dog tax’ plan, and he’d also like to see the county pay more on vouchers for residents to spay or neuter their pet.
‘That’s a good program,’ he said.
Under the proposed dog tax plan, pet owners would be required to register their dog or cat for a to-be-determined fee and, as part of the ordinance, be vaccinated for rabies. It could be enforced and collected by animal control or county veterinarians, a combination of both or other options, LaHue said.
‘The public’s not going to like it,’ LaHue said.
The consensus of the committee was to allow senior citizens (65 and older) one animal registration fee for free.
Other than enforcement of the ordinance or the animal control laws in general, LaHue said an effective spay and neutering program and public education regarding animals are key factors to reducing the animal control problem in the county.
LaHue said he runs into people with 15 to 20 dogs on their property and the owners can’t take care of them.
‘It’s an overwhelming animal population,’ he said. ‘We can’t get ahead of that curve with 10 animal control officers without the right parameters.’
A date for the committee’s next meeting was not established.

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