It’s not often that Animal Services gets front page of The Community Voice, but the vote from the Rohnert Park City Council last week to increase the fees at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter was considered that newsworthy.
Fees were last increased at the shelter in 2009, so it’s been a long time coming and perhaps a bit overdue considering how much the cost of everything – dog and cat food, medications, cleaning supplies, etc. – has increased over the years.
Most of the increases are fairly modest, for example adoption fees will go from $95 to $100. It’s just a few dollars here and a few dollars there, but all told it would increase our intake about $39,000. Considering that at the moment we only cover a third of our budget with fees, even with this increase we will be dipping into the general fund to cover the costs of running our facility.
It’s interesting to note that our intake of animals has gone down since its peak in 1998, but we are doing more for each animal and saving more of the animals, and that costs money. In addition, as noted above, everything else around us has increased – some dramatically – in recent years.
Some of the increases will be for penalties – for example, currently the fine for a first impound of a stray animal is $35. That will go up to $40. Second impound is $60 and will go up to $65. Our board fee for impounded animals is $12 and will go up to $15 per night. Not bad if you compare that cost to most boarding kennels (no, don’t “lose” your dog right before your next trip – it could end up adopted to a new family!). Other increases just recoup our costs – we were charging just $6 for a Felv/FIV test that costs us close to $10, so that’s what the new fee will be. Same with other medical care that we provide the animals, we will be increasing what we charge to be more in line with actual costs.
Also, note that staff at the shelter have not had a salary increase for the last eight years and that has significantly affected our ability to retain employees.
The biggest change that affects the public is licensing fees. Rohnert Park currently requires both dogs and cats to be licensed (and renewed annually). The current charge for an altered animal license is $12 and for an unaltered (intact) animal it’s $30.
The recommended increase is to $18 and $36, respectively. As Councilmember Joseph Callinan mentioned, making the fee too high raises the concern that it will cause more people to just not license at all.
It is estimated there are more than 10,000 dogs and 11,000 cats residing in our city. We currently have only 4,100 dogs and 1,200 cats licensed, so clearly we are not anywhere near having 100 percent compliance.
Because part of the reason to license is to cover the costs of providing animal services, then all pet owners should bear that burden. That is why I strongly feel it’s the right thing to license cats, too. Most shelters deal with many more cats than dogs.
Just think, if all 21,000 animals were licensed, we might actually look to lowering our license fee, which would be a benefit to all. Naturally there will time for public input on these suggested increases. Contact City Hall if you are interested in knowing when that will be.
Because we know increases are coming, I suggest that now is the best time to get your pets licensed (at the lower fee) and to come by and adopt a friend. You might also look into replacing that loose fence board or the lock on your gate so your pet doesn’t escape. And it's the perfect time to come in for a free microchip and ID tag so your pet can quickly be reunited with you in case she does escape.
With all the costs going up, the shorter her stay the less the fees will add up. Owning a pet is not an inexpensive deal – and now the costs are going up officially. I hope you think the service we provide is worth it!
• “Get Them Back Home” campaign: Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. Free pet ID tags and backup microchips are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati.
No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wednesday 1-6:30 p.m.; Thursday, Friday and Saturday 1-5:30 p.m.; and Sunday 1-4:30 p.m.
• Fix-it clinics: Free spay and neuters for cats and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 pounds) are available for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.