Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A loose dog will cost you

By Andy Humbles • THE TENNESSEAN • March 4, 2009 Metro is considering a bill that would raise the daily boarding fee from $4 per day to $18 per day for dogs picked up by Animal Control because they are running at large. The ordinance also stipulates dogs picked up and claimed by their owners that don't have a microchip identification implant will receive one at a cost of $25. Council members Phil Claiborne and Karen Bennett sponsored the ordinance, which has passed two votes and was scheduled to be up for the third and final reading on March 3. Three passing votes are required for approval. "The $4 per day fee was established in 1989, and there has been no change to the fee structure,'' Claiborne said. "The boarding fees weren't covering the actual cost. And (the ordinance's intent is) to keep dogs from running at large and provide a deterrent for folks who are not always responsible.'' The ordinance does not change the one-time $50 impound fee. An owner would be subject to paying for any necessary vaccinations the dog may need as well. Cost for the Animal Control Department to provide care for a dog can vary. First-day needs, other than food and boarding, could include necessary medications and shots, flea treatments, cleaning and treating injuries. Hager said it's not unusual for the first day price tag to be $40, not including administrative costs. In 2008, the Animal Control Department picked up 8,131 dogs, of which 655 were returned to owners, according to Brent Hagar, director of the Metro Health Department's environmental services. "I want to see (animals) provided with good care and food, and there is not a professional boarding facility in this county that could provide even minimal care for $4 a day,'' said Mary Pat Boatfield, executive director of the Nashville Humane Association. Boatfield believed the cost of the microchip implant would also be less than what many veterinarians would charge. Microchips are the best way to provide a record of when an animal has been in custody of Animal Control, which Claiborne said is needed. He said some there are suspicions that some dogs are picked up more than once, but their owners claim they are different dogs. The ordinance originally asked for an $18 daily boarding fee, with it jumping up to $28 for repeat incidences. But it was changed to a consistent $18 per day when it was determined that only the courts can impose a fee for punitive purposes, Claiborne said. Out of the $18 boarding fee, $3 will be dedicated to an animal education fund that will stress responsible pet ownership and the importance to spay and neuter. The ordinance specifically states the change in boarding fee relates to dogs. Dogs and cats picked up by Animal Control who are not owned or go unclaimed are eligible for adoption provided they pass a temperament test and meet health guidelines. Dogs who do not meet adoption requirements have to be euthanized. Not all dogs eligible for adoption find homes, and they have to be euthanized. The $4 per day boarding fee is charged for cats that are boarded by Metro Animal Control and are reclaimed by an owner, Hager said. The ordinance going through Metro Council specially addresses dogs. Future legislation would need to be passed to change the daily boarding fee for cats. However, very few cats impounded are ever reclaimed by an owner, Hager said. The percentage of dogs generally adopted is around 50 percent, Hager said. Cats are generally adopted at a rate less than that.

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