Hearing Held on County Dog Licensing

Washtenaw County commissioners held a public hearing at their Jan. 8, 2014 meeting on a proposed ordinance that would allow the county to issue municipal civil infractions for owning an unlicensed dog.

The proposal would also establish that the county treasurer’s office would be the bureau for administering these infractions, and would set new licensing fees. [.pdf of proposed dog license ordinance] One person, Tom Partridge, spoke at the Jan. 8 hearing.

The board had held a previous hearing at its meeting on Oct. 16, 2013, but it occurred after midnight and no one spoke.

More than a year ago, at the county board’s Nov. 7, 2012 meeting, commissioners approved a civil infractions ordinance that gave the county more flexibility to designate violations of other county ordinances as a civil infraction, rather than a criminal misdemeanor. For example, enforcement of the county’s dog licensing ordinance is low because the current penalty – a criminal misdemeanor of 90 days in jail or a $500 fine – is relatively harsh. The idea is that enforcement would improve if a lesser civil infraction could be used. The civil infraction fines are $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or any subsequent offense.

An increase in the enforcement is expected to result in an increase in the number of dog licenses, which would provide additional revenue to be used for animal control services.

However, the county board hasn’t yet taken the additional step of authorizing the issuance of a civil infractions for owning an unlicensed dog. There was no agenda item put forward for a vote on this issue at the Jan. 8 meeting, nor was there any resolution on the agenda regarding a new fee structure for dog licenses.

However, a draft resolution and staff memo were prepared in November 2013 but never brought forward to the board for a vote. [.pdf of November 2013 staff memo and resolution] The county treasurer’s office is proposing to lower the current dog licensing fee from $12 to $6 per year for spayed or neutered dogs and from $24 to $12 per year for dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered. There would continue to be a discount for a three-year license. More information about current dog licenses is available on the county website.

In addition, the draft memo provided a list of fees for violating the dog license ordinance: $50 (first offense); $100 (second offense); and $500 (third and subsequent offenses).

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor, where the board of commissioners holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]