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Pet licensing fee right step for animal control

My Opinion
Ross Schulz, Staff Writer

Harrison County has had a major animal control problem for some time now, mainly since the Great Recession set in and people could no longer afford to care for their pets.
Without throwing more and more riverboat gaming funds at the problem, which animal control officer Bruce LaHue said wouldn’t necessarily help anyway, the county may be faced with a possible solution in the coming months.
Last fall, a ‘super’ committee was created to study the animal control problem and define and implement possible solutions.
The committee met for the second time a couple of weeks ago and the consensus of the group was to go to the county commissioners in hopes of gaining approval for a pet licensing fee for county residents.
The fee would ensure animals are fully vaccinated, and it would also give animal control, or the sheriff’s department, the ability to fine those who do not correctly take care of their pets.
The money collected from the fee will also help pay for animal control operations without raising taxes or using riverboat gaming funds.
So, those residents who don’t own a pet will not have to pay for the added funding for animal control.
LaHue said his entire department runs on an annual budget of $120,000, and, to be run correctly, he needs $180,000. The gap can conceivably be made up from a pet licensing ordinance.
Most people shudder when they hear LaHue’s statistics from his time as animal control officer, specifically that, in 2011, 88 percent of the animals admitted to the animal control facility were euthanized. Many of those same people will most likely howl when the ‘dog tax’ or pet licensing fee is put into effect, but you can’t have it both ways. Either deal with the consequences of an animal overpopulation or help by paying the small fee to ensure your dog or cat is licensed, properly vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
The county had a pet licensing fee that was discontinued in 2007. It was collected by the township trustee, but it lacked enforcement.
LaHue said there’s way more dogs and cats in the county than people and that’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to animal control.
The responsible pet owners will abide by the licensing changes ‘ if they are put in place, which may be difficult in an election year ‘ but the irresponsible ones will continue to be the problem.
At least with the licensing ordinance, animal control will have some bite to go with its bark and will be able to enforce the new rules.