County Moves on Dog License Violations

Washtenaw County commissioners have given initial approval to a proposed ordinance that would allow the county to issue municipal civil infractions for owning an unlicensed dog. The action took place at the county board’s Jan. 22, 2014 meeting, with a final vote likely on Feb. 5. The ordinance would take effect 50 days after that, in late March.

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] The board held a public hearing about this proposal on Jan. 8, 2014 when one person, Thomas Partridge, spoke. The board had held a previous hearing at its meeting on Oct. 16, 2013, but it occurred after midnight and no one attended.

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 new civil infraction fines would be $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.

A draft resolution and staff memo had been prepared in November 2013 but the item was not brought forward to the board for a vote last year. The current proposal is similar to that initial draft. [.pdf of Jan. 22, 2014 resolution and memo]

The county treasurer’s office also 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. There would be no charge to license service dogs, with proper documentation and proof of rabies vaccination. More information about current dog licenses is available on the county website.

Deliberations at the Jan. 22 meeting included the importance of outreach to educate residents about the changes.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]