When Bob McCarthy presented his views on the proposed dog-license fee increase to the Island County Commissioners, he said he was so angry he could hardly talk.
And it was not because he thinks that Fido shouldn’t have a tag. McCarthy has three dogs, all of which are licensed.
Instead, what incensed the disabled veteran from Camano Island is that he felt dog owners were being asked to unfairly shoulder a burden – one that should also be borne by owners whose furry friends meow rather than bark.
McCarthy talked about how three years ago, he helped trap 78 feral cats on Camano Island, all of which were brought to the Northwest Organization for Animal Help for care.
“We’re paying our dog licenses to take care of cats,” McCarthy told commissioners at their July 23 meeting. “You guys have got it all wrong.”
But according to Stephen Paysse, the executive director of Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation, the money that the shelter gets from the county does not even cover the mandated five days that it must hold a dog to give the owner a chance to reclaim it.
Money from donors pays for the care of cats, he said.
Ultimately, the board voted 2-1 to approve increasing the license of neutered dogs from $7 to $10 and unneutered dogs from $25 to $33.
The changes also removed a discount for persons over 65, the group license and the late penalty.
Commissioner Kelly Emerson opposed the changes.
Commissioner Helen Price Johnson suggested the new fee structure could actually be viewed as a price reduction for most of the year.
That’s because with the removal of the late penalty, the cost will now be less for the latter nine months of the year.
Island County dog owners must renew their pet licenses every year before the end of April, or pay a $10 late penalty.
She also said she is hopeful that with the removal of discounts and the standardization of fees for all dog owners that the county will be able to introduce an online licensing system, which in turn could increase compliance.
Cats, however, will remain unlicensed.
Johnson and Emerson both said that now would not be a good time to begin to license cats, but they had different reasons for reaching the same conclusion.
Johnson said the county’s focus should be on providing the state-mandated dog-control services – something that the county is currently struggling to pay for – before tackling the cat license issue.
Emerson said she opposes the new fee because of the financial struggles many Island County residents are currently experiencing.
“In all these cases where we are increasing any fees, we couldn’t have picked a worse time unless we were alive and doing this during the Great Depression,” Emerson said.
In contrast, Commissioner Angie Homola expressed her support for the licensing of felines. The revenue from the license could help the county continue to serve the animals in the community and do it humanely, she said.