A catfight nearly broke out as Pasco County commissioners couldn’t quite agree on whether to mandate $5 license fees for man’s best feline friend.
The fees are among a package of changes proposed for the county’s Animal Services, which is searching for ways to boost its budgetary bottom line.
In a compromise, county commissioners agreed to approve the entire package included in an amended ordinance, with one exception.
The mandatory cat fees and licenses will be charged as part of a one-year pilot program, with quarterly updates on the number of licenses sold. Cat licenses currently are made available on a voluntary basis.
Animal Services’ officials are working out details on how to get the word out to residents and veterinarians.
The goal with the mandate is to collect about $60,000 for an Animal Services Sterilization Fund to support the county’s low-cost spaying and neutering program.
“I’m willing to give you a year but I’m expecting you to exceed the numbers,” said Pasco County Commissioner Mike Wells. “I’m not sold on it. I hope you can prove me wrong in 12 months,” Wells said.
Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano said the fees could have unintended consequences, if cat owners balk at the costs.
“What are they going to do? Let the cats go,” he said. “It’ll get worse and worse.”
Pasco County Commissioner Ted Schrader said he thought the fees had been scratched from Animal Services’ proposal, when it was presented at a budget workshop.
County officials said they were trying to be creative in coping with an approaching depletion of funds for spaying and neutering. At the workshop, they projected the coffers will be empty within three years unless a funding source is found.
Currently, revenues from dog licenses are the only resource, essentially subsidizing the expense of spaying and neutering cats, said Michael Shumate, the county’s Animal Services director.
“That revenue source is drying up,” he said.
Pasco is one of three counties in the state that doesn’t require cat licenses, and collect fees, said Cathy Pearson, the county’s assistant county administrator for public services.
However, one exception to the fees raised questions with some commissioners.
No fees will be charged when feral cats are trapped and released after being sterilized. And, they won’t have to wear collars displaying their tags. Veterinarians identify those cats by clipping a notch in one of their ears.
The trap and release process is a sometimes controversial method of trying to reduce kitten populations among feral cat colonies.
County Administrator Michele Baker is a cat owner and lives in a neighborhood with a number of feral cats.
“They are producing kittens. They are walking on my car,” she said. “I would gladly buy a $5 tag if that would allow Pasco County to neuter and spay some of the cat colony in my neighborhood.”
Cat licenses aren’t the only change for pet owners and veterinarians.
The county will require that animals sold or adopted must by micro-chipped. Veterinarians and pet dealers must have license tags available for sale, report stolen tags and provide copies of rabies vaccination certificates.
A new fee schedule also was approved.
Costs for dog and cat adoptions are unchanged, at $70 and $40 respectively. But adopting a small breed dog and puppies under four months of age will cost $85. Kittens younger than four months will cost $50.
However, animal services often have special discounted adoption events.
Dog and cat owners also will be able to get three-year rabies tags.
Published Oct. 19, 2016