Let’s celebrate our successes…

  • With the February 2013 launch of our petition to reform Metro Animal Care & Control (MACC), some increased transparency and public awareness, and new program initiatives from the health department, MACC’s kill rate has dropped from 78% to 69%. Hey, we’ll take it.
  • The adoption ban on pit bulls and pit bull type dogs was lifted for pups younger than 6 months old, and in July, we saw pit bull puppies successfully adopted for the first time in decades. Several MACC staff members participated in the ASPCA’s SAFER temperament test training in August and are currently undergoing the certification process. Once certification is awarded, adult pitties will have the same opportunity at adoption as the little guys.
  • The new rescue partner policy/application is now in place. Gone is the two-week waiting period, and rescues are finally being offered discounted adoption fees. We’ve even seen some creative adoption promotions, such as  $5 cat adoptions.
  • Since July 1, Rebecca Morris, a program specialist with the health department, has been charged with developing and implementing new programs aimed at further lowering MACC’s kill rate:1. A robust volunteer program; 2. A program called “Saving Lives Through Photography;” and 3. The utilization of social media to promote impounded animals. (We don’t want to gloat here, but…sound familiar?)  We’re pleased to say we’ve seen some really great photos of animals. We’re also excited about the MACC-dedicated Twitter and Facebook pages that were recently launched to increase visibility of MACC’s impounded animals. We hope these initiatives will increase awareness of Nashville’s unfortunate stray animal population, as well as encourage public participation in the solution.

…but let us not forget how far we have yet to go.

  • To date, no details regarding a new volunteer policy have been released. As far as we know, the hefty price tag of the criminal background and motor vehicle check is still a deterrent, and the volunteer tasks available remain somewhat limited. We anxiously await an announcement to the contrary. In the meantime, we look forward to any feedback from you regarding your attempts to volunteer – either successful or unsuccessful.
  • We’d like to see volunteers utilized to update PetFinder – volunteer photographers on a routine schedule, who write bios and upload pictures. We realize this process is very time consuming, and we believe PetFinder can and should be a volunteer-managed initiative. Many profiles on PetFinder have no photos, and those with photos are still not accompanied by descriptive bios. And remember, there are many “hidden” animals at MACC that the public never sees – animals that don’t appear on PetFinder. We think the public should decide which animals are “adoptable,” not MACC staff.
  • Maybe it’s too much to ask, but we hope at some point extended adoption hours will be considered. The current adoption hours, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 4 PM, are very limiting, especially when considering working families. Extended adoption hours have been implemented successfully in neighboring counties by utilizing volunteers and limited staff during “adoption only” hours – yet another possible win-win solution that can be reached with no negative fiscal impact.
  • We continue to hear from rescue partners who believe MACC’s rescue partnerships are not truly partnerships. We consistently hear that the line of communication with MACC is not open to all rescues – that MACC continues to “play favorites.” And that unwritten rules apparently still exist – like only certain animals are available for rescue, and for some animals, there is still an arbitrary waiting period. Until all rescue partners are treated equally and the unwritten bureaucracy of saving an animal is removed, there will be no true partnerships. And this is something that falls solely in the purview of MACC’s director.
  • As always, we want more transparency. Tax payers want to know how their money is being spent, and animal lovers want to know how policies and programs are being developed. Where MACC is concerned, the public is constantly denied the right to information and the right to participate in their government. People desire an active partnership with MACC. They want to help – to be part of the solution. MACC just needs to open the door.

After several months and with more than 10,800 signatures (both online and manual), it’s time. It’s time to close the petition. Our goal was to build an army of supporters for reform and send a message to elected officials and key decision-makers. Our message? We want change. And we will not go away until we get it. The petition has served its purpose, so it’s time to close that chapter and begin a new one.

So here you are. Thank you. And here we are – 1 year after we embarked on this journey. We are not going away – we will continue fact gathering and shining the light where it needs to be shined. Stay with us, and keep fighting the good fight.

As always – for the animals.

Concerned Citizens for Change
cccshelterreform@gmail.com

Become a virtual rescuer!

What is a Virtual Rescuer?  A Virtual Rescuer helps the “hidden” impounded animals at Metro Animal Care & Control get the exposure they need to find a forever home.  Do you want to become a Virtual Rescuer?  It’s easy!

STEP 1: CHOOSE AN ANIMAL

Go to PetHarbor and choose an animal that is not currently highly visible (e.g. NOT on PetFinder, NOT featured as an adoptable pet of the week) and/or one that has been at MACC for an extended period of time.

To search MACC animals on PetHarbor:

  • On the left side of the screen under ‘Or City Name’ type in Nashville.‘ Hit the enter key.
  • When the screen refreshes, under ‘City’ in the center of the screen, click on ‘Nashville-davidson (balance), TN.’
  • When the screen refreshes, check the box for ‘Nashville/Davidson County Metro Animal Control: Nashville, TN.’ Then click on ‘Use this Shelter List.’
  • When the screen refreshes, you will see an icon that says “I Lost My Pet”. Click that icon.
  • When the screen refreshes, you should see an icon that says ‘Choose an animal type’ with a red arrow. Click the image for either Dog or Cat, depending on the type of animal you would like to promote.
  • After you click on the image, an icon saying ‘Search Now’ should appear. Click the icon.
  • A screen should appear that includes the list of ALL dogs or cats that came into MACC as strays. Some will have made it into the adoption room – these animals will have names and probably a nice picture.  Others will still be on stray hold and may not have nice pictures – these animals may or may not make it onto MACC’s adoption floor.  (Note: There will be more than one page of animals listed. The ones that have been there the longest will be in the first pages.  You can click ‘Next Page’ that appears just below the list of animals to scroll through the pages.  Those on the last pages will be the ones just impounded.)
  • You can click on any of the animal pictures to see more information about the animal.

STEP 2: PROMOTE YOUR ANIMAL

Share your animal via email and through social media.  Encourage your friends to share, too!  Post the animal’s picture along with the following information:

  • Name (if provided) AND ID number
  • Sex
  • Breed
  • Age (if known)
  • Date of intake
  • Link to listing
  • State the animal is at Nashville’s Metro Animal Care & Control:
    5125 Harding Place
    Nashville, TN 37211
    (615) 862-7928
    Adoption hours: Tues. through Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Because you are a virtual rescuer and do not know the animal personally, please don’t make assumptions about the animal’s temperament. You may call or visit MACC to attempt to learn more about the animal, but try not to not call/visit incessantly – this could take staff away from caring for the animals.  If you call or visit MACC,  tell MACC staff that you’ve taken an interest in the animal and want to help find him/her a home.  Don’t pretend to be an adopter or say you are there on behalf on any particular organization.  If you are able to find out about the animal’s personality, please include that information when promoting the animal. Don’t forget to let people know the animal is in a high-kill shelter!

STEP 3: FOLLOW UP & SHARE YOUR SUCCESS

Remember: Because Metro Animal Care & Control is a high-kill facility, there is a chance your animal (despite your best efforts) may not make it out of shelter.  MACC staff may also tell people who inquire that certain animals are not available for adoption for one reason or another.  This is not your fault, and the animals still need your help.  We hope you will not be too discouraged and will keep up your virtual rescue efforts!

If you discover your animal has been adopted, share the news with us!  You can send an email to CCCShelterReform@gmail.com, leave a comment on our blog, or post on our Facebook page.

Happy rescuing!

 

 

Tenet 4: Increase Visibility of Impounded Animals

Dr. Bill Paul, Director of Health, has appointed Rebecca Morris, a program specialist at the Health Department, to research best practices and successful programs at other animal control facilities.  Ms. Morris has been tasked with taking that research and designing a plan to lower the euthanasia rate at Metro Animal Care & Control.  During the most recent MACC Advisory Council meeting, while Ms. Morris didn’t provide any specific details, she did mention that one of the new programs was titled, “Saving Lives Through Photography.”  As you all probably know (and if you don’t, you will read below), we provided Health Department officials with extensive information on similar successful volunteer-managed programs, as well as a complete project implementation plan for photographing and promoting adoptable animals at MACC.  We even offered to recruit the volunteers to do it.

Please enjoy the perspective and experience of this dedicated volunteer and Concerned Citizen…

No pictures allowed?
Daniel Henry, Rescue Imagery

I spent a happy three years as an animal shelter adoption photographer.  The work consisted of taking and editing pictures, sharing them with rescue organizations, and posting available animals on PetFinder so they could find homes. Although I stumbled into this work, I quickly came to love it. I loved interacting with the animals and helping calm them from their stress. I loved making photos which showed an animal’s spirit and potential, and I loved seeing people respond with love toward that animal. Although sheer numbers often made the work exhausting, I found the ability to help save lives to be rejuvenating, and ultimately, transformative.  It wasn’t until later that I realized this is what most people want when they volunteer. In fact, people are usually drawn to work that makes them feel good. I hope some of you may decide to try it for yourselves. The animals really need your help.

It’s hard to know what’s driving the dismal outcomes at Metro Animal Care & Control.

Does Nashville have an unusually high number of irresponsible pet-owners?

 Are “bully breeds” inherently dangerous?

 Is breed-designation by MACC staff in place to support facility policies, regardless of accuracy?

 Does MACC believe the public should never see animals that it deems unsuitable for adoption?

 Why do MACC officials, instead of science and adopters, decide what animals are adoptable?

On the face of it, with high shelter euthanasia rates, a huge stray population, and publicity about inherently dangerous breeds, high shelter adoption rates would seem unrealistic. But we know it’s not.  It appears MACC has a system of archaic beliefs and policies that have been in place so long that it can’t seem to make the changes needed to ensure success.  Is it any wonder that adoptions fall short or that MACC kills 76% of the animals it impounds?

As a volunteer stumbling around with a camera and an assistant, I began to wonder why so many of the animals had to die. Nobody admitted to really like killing animals, but there were just so many more of them than people or places for them. Gradually, I came to see that while it was true enough that there were too many animals, it was equally true that most of these animals were never even introduced to the public. How could they ever find homes if nobody knew about them in the first place? Despite this, in both facilities in which I worked, the staff claimed to be fully on the side of adoption. Indeed it was clear that some of them genuinely loved animals. And there were even those few who would go out of their way to help a specific animal. Nevertheless, there were still obvious disconnects. “We believe in adoption instead of killing. But our operational policies still favor killing.” For me, this became the paradox of animal shelters. So I took a small stab at “fixing” it.

I knew precious little about animal welfare, which generally is a poor way to start, but I reasoned that the charitable nature of my work justified a new camera.  So I happily proceeded on my way. My assistant and I started to work a couple of days a week, 6-10 hours a day, photographing every shelter animal the director said could be adopted. We published three photos plus a bio of each animal on PetFinder, so we spent considerable time actively engaged with the animals. All were lonely, scared, and helpless. But they seemed grateful for our attention. We found it impossible to do the work without getting attached to the animals we tried to help. Luckily we found, more often than not, our efforts found animals homes. And this is what kept us going…especially when our best efforts failed.

In a few months we got feedback from adopters – what had engaged them with their new pet were the pictures and the biography on PetFinder.  Many people commented that the photos enabled them to emotionally connect with the animals.  We gradually had rescue groups who called us because they could count on the quality of our pictures and bios. Several adopters told us they decided to drive across state lines to meet an animal because of our pictures.  It gradually became clear that attractive images and honest stories have a profoundly positive impact on shelter adoption rates.

Foot traffic increased considerably in the wake of increased PetFinder exposure. Word of mouth spread that the shelter was adopting more animals. The director utilized volunteers to extend adoption hours and nearly every animal past the required state of Tennessee 3-day stray hold got added to PetFinder.  Our project seemed to spread joy in all directions. The director was delighted to see the kill rate dramatically decline.  One shelter went from a 82% to 18% kill rate in 10 months, and the other declined from 92% to 76% in 6 months!  The number of volunteers grew with the number of adoptions.  More animals were going to forever homes. The staff were relieved they didn’t have to kill as much, and working adoption shifts improved staff morale.  Citizens told us, again and again, how happy they were that their shelter was becoming a more positive and hopeful place.

This is precisely what should be happening in Nashville at Metro Animal Care and Control. This is what Concerned Citizens for Change has formally presented and offered to implement for MACC to stem its high kill rate. We have the skills to do it, the volunteer labor to do it, and the benefit of experience to know all the challenges, shortcuts, and pitfalls involved. We can help bring down MACC’s abysmal kill rate within weeks, at zero cost to the facility or the taxpayers. It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?  Not to MACC and the Health Department leadership it isn’t.  In fact, each of the four times we have offered to address this central problem, we have been turned down.

Remember the animal shelter paradox mentioned above? Like so many others, MACC Director Ladebauche purports to want to lower the kill rate and increase adoptions. However, MACC policies manage to accomplish just the opposite. Most of this is hidden from public view, so it is difficult for citizens to realize that behind the window-dressing, an unnecessary blood-bath of staggering proportions continues daily in our city.

Here are the facts:

  1. Of the total impounded animals at MACC, 76% are killed, most of which are never allowed to be seen by the public or advertised to animal rescue organizations. These are the “hidden” animals of MACC, and most are arbitrarily slated for death. We expect this number to rise in the coming months with the addition of three more MACC field officers.
  2. MACC allows the public to choose among only a tiny percentage of their animals to have forever homes.
  3. MACC’s volunteer program has too many roadblocks to participation. It is also too small to be effective at either increasing adoption or engaging the public.

If Director Ladebauche and the Metro Public Health Department changed these things and were willing to utilize the volunteer help which has already been offered, Nashville would begin to see some of its needless slaughter decrease. In fact, most of the obvious obstacles to this  goal can be fairly easily removed. But before this can occur, MACC must embrace its public, make equal opportunity adoption a priority, and stop placing roadblocks in the face of the Nashville animal welfare community.

We are still optimistic that MACC will accept the time and expertise of talented photographers like Dan.  Regardless, best of luck to Ms. Morris in tackling the high kill rate at MACC.  We sincerely hope she is successful in effecting measurable change through new programs.  Until then, bark on.  We must keep fighting for these animals!

Health Department Program Specialist Rebecca Morris can be contacted at rebecca.morris@nashville.gov.  We are told she is very interested in building a bridge with the general public and has an open door policy.

Tenet #3: Stop Breed-Specific Policies and Euthanasia

Best practice: Each animal is allowed sufficient time to decompress upon entering shelter. The animal then undergoes a temperament test performed by staff or volunteers who are trained and certified in nationally recognized temperament testing protocols, as well as a routine medical exam.  If the animal does not have significant medical or behavioral issues, it is made immediately available for adoption or rescue.

A WORD ABOUT BREED-SPECIFIC POLICIES AND PRACTICES…
There is no existing data which indicates a dog’s breed or physical characteristics make it inherently dangerous.  In fact, the only rigorous study regarding dog attacks was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and found the following:

  • More than 70 percent of all dog bite cases involve unneutered male dogs.
  • An unneutered male dog is 2.6 times more likely to bite than is a neutered dog.
  • A chained or tethered dog is 2.8 times more likely to bite than a dog who is not chained or tethered.
  • 97% of dogs involved in fatal dog attacks in 2006 were not spayed/neutered: 78% were maintained not as pets, but rather for guarding, image enhancement, fighting or breeding; 84% were maintained by reckless owners—these dogs were abused or neglected, not humanely controlled or contained, or allowed to interact with children unsupervised.

The common thread among these dogs who bite?  Irresponsible and/or abusive owners.  Punish the deed, not the breed!  Breeds categorized as “pit bulls” (e.g. American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier) have temperaments ranked higher than the national average, according to the American Temperament Test Society.  That’s right – pitties rank better than Beagles, Chihuahuas, and many other popular breeds.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), CDC, Humane Society, and other reputable agencies have adopted positions against breed-specific policies and practices, citing such policies are expensive and ineffective at reducing the incidence of dog bites.

MACC’s Policy: For over a decade and until just 30 days ago, Metro Animal Care & Control’s written policy prohibited any pit bulls or “pit bull type dogs” from being adopted.  Though not a written policy, we also found that some other “bully” breeds were either being killed due to their breed or were labeled as available to “rescue only.”

When we asked why the breed-specific policy was in place, we were provided several explanations.  We were first told it was likely a response to an accusation made several years ago – that MACC was “selling pit bulls out the back door.”  Though the claims were never substantiated, we were told this policy was born out of that accusation.  We were also told the policy could have a resulted from the recommendations of some insurance providers.  Finally, health officials told us they weren’t really certain why the archaic policy was still in place, but with so many animals coming into MACC on a daily basis, it was a way to make “tough decisions.”

Initially, we were less than cautiously optimistic this policy would ever change.  However, in an Advisory Council meeting on May 8, it was announced the breed-specific policy would be lifted.  Beginning June 1, the first litter of pit bull puppies was offered for adoption, and now MACC’s policy is that all healthy bully pups under 6 months of age may be candidates for adoption.  And just 60 days from today, following MACC employees’ certification in ASPCA’s SAFER program, all adult dogs passing a temperament and medical test, regardless of breed, will also have the opportunity to considered for adoption.

This is a huge milestone, and we thank all the petition signers and citizens of Nashville for joining with us to save lives at MACC.  Space is still limited, and there is no guarantee for any animal.  And as you know, many adoptable animals are not listed on MACC’s PetFinder website,  so we need YOU to be a part of these adoption efforts.  We have an important role to play in helping spread the word – bully breed puppies are available for adoption at MACC!

Tenet #2 – Establish a Volunteer Program

Since the petition made its debut, Metro Animal Care & Control (MACC) has been very adamant that it does have a volunteer program, contrary to our claims.  MACC even scheduled a volunteer orientation for May 18, but because the orientation conflicted with a Crossroads Campus event, it was moved to Memorial Day weekend.  Despite the holiday, the room was packed – standing room only.

During the May 25 volunteer informational session and orientation, aspiring volunteers were introduced to the “small but mighty” group of current MACC volunteers.  A MACC employee boasted of the more than 11,000 volunteers hours accumulated since 2007.  But what does that really mean?  It means that, if each volunteer worked the minimum hours required (and we’re told these volunteers actually work more), MACC has maintained a roster of approximately 19 volunteers  over the past 6 years.  To put that into perspective, Seattle Animal Shelter and Capital Area Humane Society, both which have a comparably sized staff relative to MACC,  have over 600 active volunteers on each of their rosters.  (“Active” is defined as having volunteered in the last 6 months.)  Seattle alone logs 7,000-8,000 volunteer hours monthly.  Now THAT’s a volunteer program.

More about MACC’s volunteer program…

  • Volunteers must complete a background check before they may be considered.  The background check costs $50 through Metro Nashville & Davidson County’s contracted company.  Even if a volunteer’s background check results are favorable, there is no guarantee the volunteer will be chosen.  That said, we do not know what criteria might be used to reject a volunteer.

    Recommendation: The health department should either foot the bill for the background check (as do several other departments in Metro) OR approve volunteers for service pending a clear background check report.  This way, a volunteer only pays for the report IF he/she is approved to begin work.

  • Each volunteer must commit to a minimum of 8 hours per month, Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m-4 p.m.  Volunteers must work 2-4 hour shifts, and there are to be no more than 4-6 volunteers in the building at a time.  As there are only so many Saturday volunteer slots available, this requirement is particularly limiting for those of us who work Monday-Friday during regular business hours.

    Recommendation: There should be no minimum requirement.  To manage the large number of volunteers, we recommend identifying Lead Volunteers, who would receive “train the trainer” training from a MACC employee and be tasked with managing and orientating other volunteers.  Concerned Citizens for Change offered to build, implement, and facilitate this process and were told our services we not needed.

  • Volunteers are ONLY permitted to work with animals in the adoption room, which holds about 45 animals or less out of the total 250 (when the building is at capacity).  This means most animals are never exercised or socialized.  The longer an animal goes without human contact, the less likely it is to pass a temperament test and be deemed “adoptable.”  Also, though Dr. Paul has publicly stated MACC needs help with PetFinder photos and bios, volunteers are not permitted to help with this effort.

    Recommendation: Volunteers should be utilized in every capacity possible, including exercising and socializing animals not yet available for adoption.   Speaking of temperament tests, many animal advocates in the Nashville area are certified in temperament testing protocols and could help move animals into the adoption area more quickly.  There are numerous other asks for which volunteers could be used, including staffing adoption days and events off-site, as well as photographing animals, writing bios, uploading photos and bios to PetFinder, and keeping the PetFinder site up-to-date.

MACC cannot hope to have a successful volunteer program if it deters and prevents caring people from volunteering and refuses to allow volunteers to help with tasks outside of MACC’s adoption area.  There is so much work to do, and MACC’s staff simply cannot do it alone.  A roster of 600 volunteers, each working even 4 hours per month, could do the work of 13 FULL TIME employees.  Imagine the possibilities!

Tenet #1 – Establish a Rescue Program

Metro Animal Care & Control (MACC) claims to work with many nonprofit rescue partners, though there has never been a written policy pertaining to rescue partnerships. A mere 1% of animals impounded at MACC in 2012 were transferred to rescues, evidence which suggests rescues are an underutilized avenue to save animals. For several weeks we have submitted feedback on the draft rescue partner policy, as well as provided national and local data regarding successful policies implemented by shelters with low kill rates. Yesterday via press release, MACC unveiled its new policy and procedure for the certification of nonprofit rescue partners, in effort to reduce their kill rate.We are ecstatic to see this monumental step in the right direction.  The good news is that the application process seems relatively simple.  However, the rescue partner program, as debuted, unfortunately does not include all the components for which we’ve advocated.  The major barriers to the program’s success are detailed below.ADOPTION/TRANSFER FEE
Best practice:
Rescues are not required to pay an adoption/transfer fee.

MACC’s policy: Rescues must pay a reduced adoption/transfer fee.

The problems:

  • This practice deters rescues from becoming partners with MACC because they can do business at no charge with many shelters in neighboring counties.
  • It costs more to kill an animal than to send an animal to a rescue.

VETTING & STERILIZATION
Best practice: 
The animal control facility entrusts all needed medical care to the rescue partner, freeing up the time and resources of the shelter’s staff and enabling them to prepare more animals to move into the adoption area.

MACC’s policy: All animals must be minimally vetted and spayed/neutered before leaving MACC, unless the rescue  partner has a physical shelter equipped for surgical procedures (e.g. Nashville Humane).

The problems:

  • This practice creates a backlog for MACC’s on-site veterinarian, thereby preventing animals from being moved into adoption efficiently.
  • Most rescues across the country utilize several foster homes, not one physical shelter.  Most rescues are not equipped to perform surgical procedures; rather, they use the services of a local veterinarian.

ANIMALS AVAILABLE TO RESCUE PARTNERS
Best practice:
Rescue partners are permitted to pull any animal that has fulfilled the 3-day stray hold mandated under Tennessee state law (with the exception of animals that have been temperament tested using proper protocols and deemed too aggressive to be rehabilitated OR animals that are deemed medically unfit).  There is no additional waiting period to pull any animal.

MACC’s policy: According to the press release, rescue partners are permitted to pull animals that have been available for adoption for a minimum of two weeks.  (This is contrary to the information provided by Dr. Paul in the health department’s Council budget hearing.)

The problems:

  • This practice is fiscally irresponsible.  During that two week waiting period, MACC absorbs the cost to feed and house each animal, as well as the cost to perform euthanasia if it is not adopted.
  • This unnecessarily lengthens the time an adoptable animal is in shelter.  In shelter, an animal is more susceptible to stress, lack of socialization, increased aggression, and death or illness.
  • The longer each kennel in the adoption area remains occupied, animals in quarantine and impound are more likely to die due to time and space constraints inside MACC.
  • Not all adoptable animals make it to the adoption area at MACC.  In fact, most are never seen by the public or given a chance to be adopted.

No reputable animal welfare organization or veterinary professional would argue that shelter is a better environment than a foster home.  Rescues remove animals from the less than optimal shelter environment and agree to take full responsibility for their care, eliminating a piece of the burden shouldered by the shelter (and tax payers) – an act most would consider a public service.

These facets of MACC’s policy defy the industry standard for best practice, which is to move all healthy animals out of shelter as quickly as possible, thus lowering the kill rate at the facility.

We’re happy to see some of the bricks loosened, but we must keep pushing if we want to knock down the wall!

ORDINANCE NO. BL2013-452 – UPDATE!

Many of you have heard our call to action and have written the Metro Council – the animals thank you!  We know many of you are receiving responses from Council members, assuring you that, with the passage of this bill, the Council still retains final approval of the Metro Public Health Department’s fee schedule and the dog license fee.

Because there seems to be some misdirection coming to Council members in the form of emails from the Department of Health, we feel the need to provide further clarification…

The dog license fee (which, as we all know, is essentially a tax paid by only responsible dog owners) is $4 per dog, as explicitly indicated in the Metro Code.  If the Council wishes to increase the fee, it would need to pass an ordinance (3 readings, requiring 3 votes).  We responsible dog owners are given more than 6 weeks (from the release of the first agenda to the third vote) to learn of the proposed increase and contact our duly elected representatives to express approval or disapproval.  This is a fair, transparent process.

Unrelated to the license fee, the Department of Health drafts its own fee schedule (for boarding fees, adoption fees, etc. – – – fees NOT levied on every dog owner), which passes before the Board of Health and then to the Council for adoption by resolution (requiring 1 vote).  The Council does NOT have the power to amend the fee schedule document – it can merely vote to approve or disapprove it. If the Council disapproves the fee schedule, it would then go back to the Department to be amended, then before the Board of Health, and back to the Council.

In short, what does this mean?

  • If this bill passes, the dog license fee will no longer be part of the Metro Code, and the Department of Health, not the Council, will originate all proposed increases.
  • It will take 1 vote from the Council – not 3 – to make such increases effective.
  • Because the fee schedule is an attachment included in the full agenda analysis provided only to Council members, we would never see it unless we requested a copy of this analysis from the Council office.  In other words, under this new process, it’s likely we responsible dog owners would never know a fee increase was being proposed.
  • Especially considering the Board of Health meets only monthly, it’s completely unrealistic to expect the Council would vote to reject the Department’s fee schedule and hold up the entire budget approval process.
  • This new process lacks transparency AND Council oversight.

If anyone tells you that you don’t have your facts straight, let them know that’s not the case.  Knowledge is power.

Keep writing – councilmembers@nashville.gov!