In an effort to help offset costs at the Dawson County Humane Society, shelter volunteers have asked the county to consider charging pet owners a license fee.
Under the proposal, county residents would pay $10 per dog and cat on an annual basis.
The shelter has been at capacity since about May and cannot accept any more abandoned or homeless animals.
Officials have attributed the situation to a drop in volunteers and donations, as well as county budget cuts.
According to information provided by Brandon Mills, a local veterinarian who once served as president of the humane society, neighboring Forsyth County has a similar licensing structure for pets.
Forsyth County dog and cat owners are charged $3 if the animal has been spayed or neutered and $5 if not.
County Manager Kevin Tanner, who presented Mills’ findings to the commission last week, said the proposal would require amending the animal control ordinance from 2000.
“Before the staff puts time into drafting an ordinance change, we wanted to determine whether or not this was something the commission wanted to consider,” Tanner said.
In Forsyth County, the fees are collected when pets are treated at the vet or receive their annual rabies vaccination.
“I’m not sure how much compliance they have,” Tanner said. “I know people who live in Forsyth that didn’t know about this.”
Tanner said the only way he could see to efficiently collect the fee would be to match health department records on rabies shots to the fees collected by local vets.
He also said the county cannot require veterinarians to comply.
“It would have to be a voluntary collection process,” he said.
Commissioner James Swafford said it appears the fee would not be enforceble.
“Because only the people that are going to volunteer and pay it are your responsible pet owners anyway,” he said. “How much is it going to cost you to send somebody out there to make the charges and maybe even carry it to court?”
Tanner admitted the county does not have the manpower to enforce and follow up on such an ordinance.
“It would be more of a voluntary compliance fee,” he said.
Tanner recommended the commission consult with the county attorney if there is an interest in moving forward with the fee.
“It is important to ensure that the fee would withstand legal challenge, since it would be charged to all cat and dog owners and not just those who utilize the services of animal control,” he said.