ORDINANCE NO. BL2013-452 has been introduced to track with the Metro Public Health Department’s (MPHD) budget and is on third reading before the Metro Council on Tuesday, June 4th. Typically, a bill like this would not be contentious. Typically.
Sure, the bill has some good bits. If passed, it would allow Metro Animal Care & Control (MACC) to charge reduced fees to rescue groups that have been certified under MPHD policy [that doesn’t yet exist]. The Director of Health would also be given the power to waive fees for dogs impounded through no fault of the owner.
That’s great, but there’s some funny business going on here. Bear with us – this is going get a bit wonky…
MPHD has requested a budget increase to hire three additional MACC field officers next year, and Director of Health Dr. Bill Paul has proposed the increase be funded by increasing license fees from $4 to $6. Under current law we [responsible] dog owners must pay a license fee for each dog we own when we vaccinate our dogs for Rabies. The current fee is $4 per dog, which is explicitly stated within the Metro Code of Ordinances:
Any person owning, keeping or harboring on the premises where they reside, any dog six months of age or over, shall pay to the chief medical director a fee of four dollars for each dog owned, kept or harbored.
Now, if Dr. Paul wants to increase license fees by $2, the simple thing to do would be to have the Council pass a bill that changes “four dollars” to “six dollars” in the Metro Code, right? However, the bill up for a vote next week reads that we [responsible] dog owners “shall pay to the chief medical director a fee in accordance with the current fee schedule.” This budget year the license fee amount listed on the proposed fee schedule is indeed $6. However, the language referring to the fee schedule is troublesome because it allows MPHD to set license fees, rather than the Metro Council. AND this money is NOT designated specifically for Metro Animal Care & Control or any particular purpose. This money is made available for Metro Public Health Department’s budget.
What’s more, many other municipalities have enacted laws that direct money collected from license fees to spay/neuter programs. It is likely this will never happen in Nashville and Davidson County if this bill passes in its current form. We have not championed the funding of spay/neuter programs at the forefront of our initiative, but it goes without saying that we recognize its importance. The language in this bill is a step in the wrong direction.
YOU CAN HELP.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org (bcc: email@example.com), subject line: ORDINANCE NO. BL2013-452.
Use talking points like these (please don’t copy/paste!):
- Recent reports from the Tennessean and Metro Public Health Department indicate that Metro Animal Care & Control used our tax dollars to kill more than 8,000 animals last year.
- While I know Metro Animal Care & Control is understaffed and support adding three field officers, I do not support Metro Public Health Department having the power to raise fees on tax payers and responsible pet owners to fund its own agenda.
- I want our elected representatives, not unelected government officials, to set dog license fees and decide how this money is used.
- Please amend BL2013-452 to reflect the wishes of responsible pet owners. The power to set dog license fees should remain with the Council.
Don’t forget to tell them the district in which you reside and vote! (Find your district here.)
Please forward this on to your friends, family, and colleagues, and ask them to do the same. Bark on!