Animal Services director seeks increase in fees for services

RIVERSIDE  – The Board of Supervisors Tuesday scheduled a Jan. 5 public hearing to consider the Riverside County Department of Animal Services’ request to hike fees for dog licenses and other services, as well as establish new charges for sheltering and euthanizing pets.

Animal services Director Rob Miller told the board that the agency had not sought fee adjustments since August 2011, and rate changes were needed to keep up with increasing operational costs.

An agency statement posted to the board’s policy agenda says service rates “are based on actual … expenditures, budgeted staffing levels and comparative sales analysis using the counties of Ventura, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and San Diego.”

Over the last five months, personnel reviewed more than 100 fees to determine which ones needed to be raised, lowered or left alone, according to Miller.

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries questioned the necessity of several proposed adjustments, including a hike in the “owner turn-in fee” from $30 to $164. The assessment is applied whenever a resident calls for a Department of Animal
Services employee to retrieve a pet because they don’t want it anymore, can’t care for it, or other reasons.

“Isn’t this increase going to cause more harm than good?,” Jeffries asked. “I suspect we may see more animals let loose in neighborhoods because people would rather do that than pay these fees.”

Miller replied that the new amount represents a consolidation of “five or six” individual fees, including for boarding and unpaid license costs, that currently apply for the same service.

Supervisor John Benoit also questioned the risk of “animal dumping” in the face of higher surrender costs, but seemed satisfied with Miller’s assurance that previous rate increases had not precipitated a verifiable “spike in the stray population.”

Benoit suggested that, in the future, rate hikes may be avoided if there are more “automated processes” implemented to keep a lid on departmental costs.

Under the proposed revised rate schedule, the cost of a one-year county license for an altered dog would go up a buck, from $16 to $17, while the cost of a license for an unaltered dog would remain $100. Among new fees would be a $193 charge for euthanizing a large animal, such as a horse. The Department of Animal Services is also seeking to impose new fees for processing a payment plan — $19 — and initiating the collections process — $28.

Miller is proposing a reduction in fees charged for a few services, including an optional cat license, which would be available for $3 instead of the current $9, and one-year Class 1 kennel license for retaining up to 10 unaltered dogs, slated for a reduction from $280 to $250.

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