The ordinance requires $5 licenses. The city says it will help quickly reunite owners with their at-large animals.
The City Council passed a new animal control ordinance this summer, and as a result, residents had 45 days to license their dogs and cats with the city. The licensing was intended to create a database of pet dogs and cats, enabling animal control to reunite at-large pets with their owners more easily — and at a lower cost.
From September 2009 to October 2010, the city spent $27,466 just for bringing at-large animals to the Humane Society, according to Code Enforcement Manager Barbara Grossman.
In addition, if a dog is at large, animal control workers need to know whether the dog could have rabies, so they can know how to approach and handle the dog safely.
To try to enforce the new ordinance, Grossman contacted veterinarians to ask which pets had their rabies vaccinations. She came up with a list of 5,000 owners whose pets had vaccinations but were not licensed.
In November, the city sent a letter to the pet owners informing them that they were required to license their pets and pay the processing fee of $5. To sound more friendly, the city identified the residents’ pets’ names in the letters.
But many residents were not pleased. The issue has caused an uproar in such places as FlaglerChat, which has about 200 replies and more than 3,650 views to the December online posting “PC Animal Control Letter.”
F-section resident Elsie P. Wiggin received her letter Nov. 24, informing her that her cat, Ernhart, needed a license.
In a reply letter to the city, Wiggin writes: “I can’t believe that the city would stoop to such levels to force pet owners to pay a $5 license fee for cats!In case you don’t know, cats don’t wear collars very well.”
She goes on to say that the city violated her rights to privacy by obtaining the name of her cat from her veterinarian.
“Ernie lives inside my home and you have totally violated that space,” Wiggin writes. “You have raped and pilfered personal information about my pet (and) put my veterinarian in a precarious position, all so you can collect a fee so that you can have yet more money which you squander and waste.”
According to Grossman, the uproar is mostly a misunderstanding. State law allows the city to request information from veterinarians about rabies vaccinations as a public safety issue.
“I’m an animal owner and an animal lover,” Grossman said. “ … All of the information … gives me a tool in my toolbox to reunite you with your animal.”
However, Grossman did say the city learned a lesson: Find a new way to be friendly, and skip the pet’s name in the letter from now on.
For more information, call 986-3700.
BY THE NUMBERS
$27,466 — cost to taxpayers for the city to transport and house residents’ at-large animals at the Humane Society
5,000 — letters sent to owners who had not complied with the new pet-licensing rules
45 — days to register your pet before code enforcement could serve you a notice
986-3700 — number to call with questions