In the doghouse: El Dorado County raises animal control fees
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Ben Israel and his girlfriend, Shannon Gidney, packed medical supplies into their car so tightly Gidney’s luggage had to go on her lap. Gidney was flying internationally on a medical mission. Israel was dropping her at the airport and going to visit his parents in the Bay Area for a weekend.
They dropped their dogs, Tank and Ender, off at a friend’s house on North Upper Truckee and headed out of town. On March 3, Israel’s friend called telling him his dogs were missing. When he got home, Israel got on the phone with El Dorado County Animal Services. The voice on the end of the line asked him if he was sitting down.
“I was assuming it would be a couple hundred, $400 at the max,” Israel said. “I could do that.”
The dogs escaped from his friend’s house and were picked up by animal control and Israel faces more than $1,100 in fines. As of April 1, animal control raised fines and fees, some to the tune of three times the original amount.
“I was just baffled,” Israel said. “I didn’t say anything because it wouldn’t have been very nice.”
Tank and Ender got hit with the nearly the highest dog impound fines possible. Because Israel’s dogs have ended up at the Shakori Drive shelter twice before, the fine, $350 per dog, is more than four times higher than if it had of been his first runaway pet, and nearly three times as much as it would’ve been before the increase. There’s also a $100 per dog no license fee (up from $30), a $27 boarding fee (up from $10), a $20 charge to license the neutered dog (up from $15), a $100 charge to license the unneutered dog (up from $35) and a $35 state fine for a roaming unneutered dog.
“For most residents, the new fees will represent a minor or modest increase,” said Henry Brzezinski, chief of animal services, in a statement. “Every effort was made to give responsible pet owners the lowest increase.”
Animal control raised the fees in order to recoup some of their operating costs, said Margaret Williams, a spokeswoman for the El Dorado County health services department. The increased fees could result in a $300,000 increase in revenue for the program, according to a document prepared by animal control.
Before raising the fines and fees, the county studied the costs of each animal service and similar fees in surrounding counties.
El Dorado animal control’s 2010/’11 fiscal year budget is more than $2.5 million. With the fee increases, there still will be a projected net cost of $1 million to El Dorado County.
Animal services responds to about 9,000-10,000 animal related calls, complaints and emergencies from residents each year, according to a press release. Animal services primary function is to protect the health and safety of the community, Williams said.
If Israel chooses not to reclaim Tank and Ender, he will still be responsible for many of the fines. There is no program set up that allows people to work off these fees through community service or other activities.
The dogs, if left at the shelter, will be evaluated to see if they’re adoptable. If they’re not adoptable, they will be euthanized.
“We should be able to have a dog without getting bent over a barrel,” Israel said.