Dog license fees may be increased to prevent service cuts in the Spokane County animal-control program.
County commissioners informally endorsed a plan to increase fees to match those in Spokane.
They directed Nancy Hill, director of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, to consult officials in Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake, where the county sets license fees under animal-control contracts.
Commissioners proposed discounts for seniors to soften the blow.
Cat licenses in most areas served by SCRAPS already cost the same as in Spokane, but fees would rise from $20 a year to $25 for neutered dogs and from $40 to $50 for unneutered dogs.
Commissioners agreed to let SCRAPS keep the $128,745 Hill estimates the fee increase would generate. Ordinarily, the money would be shared equally among all general fund departments.
Hill said SCRAPS faces drastic service cuts without the extra money. The department’s general fund support was cut $124,281 this year, or 11.2 percent, and $25,179 more is to be cut next year.
“I do not have high-paying positions in my department,” Hill told commissioners. “I have people that start out at 10 bucks an hour in some cases, so $150,000 is a lot of bodies.”
Hill said she emptied her reserves this year and began diverting money from a spay-and-neuter program to cover the cut. The dog license increase and the 25 percent spay-and-neuter diversion would bridge the gap next year, she said.
Otherwise, Hill said, she’ll have to lay off workers and curtail operations to the point where field officers may have to focus on dangerous animals and ignore strays.
“We don’t have a big, fancy service here, but we have one that’s functional, and I think it’s very, very important to our community to preserve that service,” Hill said.
Commissioners unanimously approved her request to lease a portable building for three years, at a total cost of $48,616, to ease office overcrowding while they develop plans for a new facility.
Clients that account for slightly more than half of SCRAPS’ workload will pay a proportional share of the cost of the facility. In addition to Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake, they include Cheney, Millwood and Fairchild Air Force Base.
County commissioners also directed Hill to study the possibility of requiring veterinarians to report rabies vaccinations – which are required by law – to help SCRAPS identify pet owners.