Can Animal Advocates Trust Metro Health Department Spending?
June 3, 2013 – Nashville, TN. Concerned Citizens for Change, a group of grassroots organizers, is promoting a petition for reform of Nashville’s Metro Animal Care & Control (MACC) to reduce its 76 percent kill rate. The petition has garnered more than 10,000 signatures.The organizers have released a call to action regarding ORDINANCE NO. BL2013-452, which has been introduced to track with the Metro Public Health Department’s budget request. The bill will go before the Metro Council for third reading tomorrow night, June 4th.
The health department has requested a $2 increase in the dog license fee, from $4 to $6, to fund the hire of three MACC officers next year. License tags are furnished to local veterinarians by the health department, and dog owners pay the license fees to their veterinarians when their pets receive required vaccinations. The fees are then returned to the health department for its budget.
With passage of the proposed bill, the health department would gain oversight, while some of the Metro Council’s administrative power would be diminished.
Under the new law, proposed license fee increases would come from the health department, requiring the Council’s approval of the department’s entire fee schedule, which would include the license fee. The fee schedule would be adopted by resolution through one vote from the Council.
Currently a license fee change requires passage of an ordinance, which must pass the Council on three votes. Concerned Citizens for Change believes this process allows the public an opportunity to see the proposed fee and provide feedback to Council members about the amount, including how the money might be spent. Opponents of the bill argue the process proposed under ORDINANCE NO. BL2013-452 would create a lack of transparency to the public because the proposed fee schedule would not appear in the publicly available Council agenda analysis. But that is not the only concern.
“While we support MACC adding additional staff, we do not support the power this bill would give the Metro Public Health Department,” says concerned citizen Karen Josephson. Josephson cites reports of over 8,000 animals killed at MACC last year with tax payer dollars, as well as a recent article in The City Paper, which uncovered questionable spending of funds intended for animal education and welfare programs. “The health department and MACC have demonstrated significant fiscal irresponsibility. Our supporters prefer the sole power to increase the dog license fee remain with our duly elected representatives, not Metro employees,” Josephson said.
The group is encouraging supporters to email the Metro Council and request amendment of the bill. While not at the forefront of the group’s initiative, Concerned Citizens for Change hopes that, in the future, funds generated from the dog license fee can be dedicated to free or low-cost spay and neuter programs.
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