Wake Scratches Plan to Increase Pet Registration Fees

Posted April 14, 2008 6:39 p.m. EDT
Updated April 14, 2008 7:04 p.m. EDT

— Wake County commissioners on Monday rejected a proposal to increase license fees for pet owners to pay for expanded animal shelters and improved pet adoption services.

About 8,400 pets that wind up in Wake County animal shelters every year are euthanized because of limited space. County officials want to work with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to consolidate and expand sheltering and adoption services.

"The consensus of the commissioners is we want to improve how we're handling the pets in Wake County," said Joe Bryan, chairman of the Board of Commissioners.

The moves could cost an extra $300,000 a year, prompting officials to consider using higher fees on dog and cat licenses to help pay for the changes.

The proposal called for establishing a countywide licensing program – Raleigh, Cary and Garner are the only jurisdictions that currently require pet licenses – that would charge $15 per sterilized dog or cat and $30 for pets that hadn't been spayed or neutered.

Orange and Durham counties have similar systems, charging pet owners more to license unsterilized dogs and cats.

Wake commissioners scratched the plan Monday after hearing opposition from the SPCA of Wake County and some local veterinarians.

"Basically, it's a pet tax," said Hope Hancock, SPCA executive director. "It needs to be an incentive, but there's a point (at which) it's a disincentive."

Hancock and others said higher fees could lead to people choosing not to register their pets at all. That prospect scares Dr. Joe Gordon, a veterinarian with Oberlin Animal Hospital in Raleigh, because the proposal called for collecting the license fees when people vaccinated their pets against rabies each year.

"The additional costs may deter people from getting rabies vaccinations (for their pets)," Gordon said.

Commissioners said they would look at other funding options for the shelter and adoption upgrades, most likely spreading the costs to all area taxpayers.

"It's for the greater good to have a healthy pet population for the entire county," Bryan said.

Separately, the county animal shelter announced Monday that it would stop using a gas chamber to euthanize animals, starting July 1. The gas chamber has been used in about 6 percent of euthanasia cases to deal with aggressive or potentially rabid animals, officials said.