Home Columns Opinion OPINION: Proposed Dog License Fees Too High

OPINION: Proposed Dog License Fees Too High

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by Cindra Conison, owner of The Quirky Pet

Montpelier’s (dog license) fees are on the high end of fees in New England but also higher than other major cities.

  • Chicago, IL $5.00
  • Boston, MA $6.00
  • New York City, NY $8.50
  • Montpelier Present $10.00
  • San Diego, CA $15.00
  • Phoenix, AZ $16.00
  • MONTPELIER PROPOSED $22.00

Dog tagging promotes the up-to-date rabies shots that keep cities safe. As word gets around, many of those who habitually buy dog licenses might join the other owners in a quiet protest not to by licenses and by 2016 or so Montpelier would likely not even have enough required for a bulk purchase discount on dog tags.

The mayor’s  rationale for the new tax is that every Montpelier dog owner should  be paying for dog waste removal from Hubbard Park — regardless of whether their dogs ever step foot in Hubbard Park — which I am convinced that the majority of Montpelier’s 460 licensed dogs don’t.

Some case might be made to force every dog owner to pay for refuse removal  were there no other special interest subsidies in the same proposed city budget. There are many; most notable involving downtown commuting bicyclists. The same city budget that is proposing to raise dog licenses to one of the highest levels in the nation is dedicating $47,943 of new spending for downtown bicyclists with no required payments. As city hall insiders close to the mayor and several on council, downtown commuting bikers negotiated a total free ride; pun intended.

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In addition, every weekday, 350 people ride the Circulator for free to middle class jobs at National Life and nearby state offices. The proposed budget does not ask them to contribute even 50 cents to help defray the costs of a property tax subsidized service.

This proposed budget includes $40,000 to provide a free bus ride for hundreds of workers as well as nearly $50,000 for the handful of downtown bicycling commuters. Surely a miniscule amount can be found for refuse disposal in a city park. In a $12,530,000 budget, assessing a 120% tax hike on a select 340 households to try and raise a paltry $4,700 strikes me as oddly petty. My principal concern however is that the proposal is incredibly reckless. 

In my view, the bottom line isn’t canine refuse or high taxes. The real focus has to be on our public health and safety.  For humans, rabies shots are an extremely painful multi-shot protocol definitely best avoided.  Ironically, the mayor and council’s cavalier attitude towards rabies is a product of our present voluntary system that has worked so well. Our town has been near rabies free for so long that the council now blithely ignores rabies as a potential public health threat — blind to the fact that the low cost dog tag itself has always been the lynchpin of the town’s successful voluntary rabies effort. In fact, a very inexpensive dog tag is the foundation of every city’s successful rabies abatement effort.

In early January an online survey will be posted to query the public. Montpelier, as well as neighboring communities, will be asked to weigh in on actual dog usage in Hubbard and the actual reaction of dog owners to the proposed higher fees in terms of future participation in the city’s dog tag program. The results will be made available prior to the budget hearing of Jan. 22 so that the issue can be discussed in the light of what the people have to say.