Owners Should Pay the Cost of Finding Fido

By Lafleur, Steve | Winnipeg Free Press, August 25, 2012 | Go to article overview

Owners Should Pay the Cost of Finding Fido


Lafleur, Steve, Winnipeg Free Press


Winnipeg dog owners face a $250 fine for failing to license their dogs.

The city has warned dog owners of its zero tolerance for unlicensed dogs by taking out advertisements on the sides of buses.

While it seems reasonable to punish people for not complying with licensing regulations, it raises several questions about the way in which the city funds dog-related services.

The city currently charges owners an annual fee of $63 per dog: $28 for sterilized dogs, and $78 for "dangerous" dogs. Two-year licences come with a 10 per cent discount. All licensing revenue remains with Animal Services and is used to care for lost dogs, educate the public about responsible dog ownership, help neighbours resolve dog-related problems and to operate an adopt-a-pet program. While these are laudable goals, one cannot help but wonder why responsible dog owners should be stuck with the bill.

Most dog owners do not at any point have to rely on animal services to return their dog, nor do most owners experience dog-related problems with their neighbours that require outside intervention. While the city is correct to recuperate costs for animal services from dog owners, it is wrong to do so from the pockets of responsible dog owners. Instead, the city should try to ensure individual dog owners pay for services they themselves receive.

As a general rule, governments should attempt to fund programs through user fees. This approach makes it more likely people will use only those government services they truly value and helps ensure some citizens aren't unfairly forced to subsidize the choices of others. More importantly, it gives people incentives to act responsibly.

While it makes sense that all dog-licensing fees remain with Animal Services, it would be better to reduce licensing costs and charge a fee to dog owners whose pets have been lost and retrieved by Animal Services. It would also make sense to issue licences for the entire life of the dog, rather than requiring owners to re-register every one or two years. A lifetime licence would be more convenient for dog owners and would require less bureaucracy.

Lifetime licences would likely be set at a rate that would yield less revenue over the average dog's life than under the current system. However, the need for less staff to process licences would offset some of that shortfall. Much of the revenue lost from moving to lifetime licences for dogs could be recovered by charging a fee to dog owners who actually lose their dogs.

The full cost of sheltering lost animals, which was $404 per animal in 2008, ought to be charged to those who actually receive the service. …

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