No license for Fido or Fifi? Be prepared to pay

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 10, 2010 - 10:16 PM

Incentives to license more pets haven't paid off as Minnepaolis hoped, so it's looking at a $200 fine for unlicensed cats and dogs.

If a carrot can't lure Minneapolis dog and cat owners to license their pets, how about a stick?

That's the tack the city may try with a proposal to double the fine for not licensing a dog or cat to $200. The proposal won unanimous approval from a City Council committee on Wednesday.

Animal control officials estimate that at least 200,000 dogs and cats are kept within Minneapolis, but only 11,375 were licensed at last count. That's despite incentives added over the past three years, such as online licensing, lifetime licenses, discounts for multiple pets within a household, and a license discount for seniors -- that's senior citizens, not senior dogs or cats. Those added only about 3,300 licenses.

The move to increase dog and cat regulation comes as some suburbs are dropping requirements that dogs be licensed. But Minneapolis officials say that with more than 15,000 animal control calls per year, they need revenue to pay for regulating such pet issues as dangerous dogs, dogfighting and animal cruelty that suburban cities don't face to the same degree.

With comparatively few people complying with the licensing requirement, Council Member Lisa Goodman said, people obeying the law are paying the freight for those who break it. Animal control is about the only part of the city's mostly fee-supported Department of Regulatory Services that's not self-supporting through fee or license income, according to the city.

"We're just not seeing the licenses that we hoped we would see," Lori Olson, deputy director of environmental management, told council members. "I think it's time for the stick."

The city last raised the fee for the citation in 2007, when it quadrupled from $25 -- or $5 less than the cost of an annual license -- to $100. Owners of unlicensed pets in St. Paul pay a $30 petty misdemeanor fine plus $81 in court costs. The Minneapolis fee is a civil penalty, and an owner may apply part of the payment toward a license.

Minneapolis charges $30 annually for licensing sterilized dogs or cats, and $50 annually for those that aren't. A lifetime license -- that's the pet's life, not the owner's -- costs $200. The annual license fee is discounted to $20 each for additional dogs or cats in the same household. People age 65 or older get a break of $15 per year. Animal-control officials note that there are benefits that come with licensing; they say, for example, that lost licensed pets are three times more likely to be returned to their homes than unlicensed ones.

Besides the proposed $200 citation for keeping an unlicensed pet, which goes to the full council on Nov. 19, an owner can face added costs. The citation for an unleashed dog is $75, and there's a $50 fee to impound the pet if the owner can't be located, plus a $15-per-day shelter fee.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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