Committee approves fine increase for unlicensed pets

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November 22, 2010
By: Jake Weyer
Jake Weyer
After little discussion, the Minneapolis City Council’s Public Safety and Health Committee on Nov. 10 approved increasing the fine for unlicensed pets from $100 to $200.

Minneapolis Animal Care and Control (MACC) can issue the fine to any dog or cat owner whose pet is caught without a city-issued collar tag or microchip. MACC proposed the change based on the recommendation of an advisory board made up of local animal professionals and owners with the hope that it will boost the city’s lagging number of licensed pets.

Lori Olson, the city’s deputy director of environmental management and safety, said MACC’s “carrot” approach to licensing, which involved incentives, discounts and other initiatives, has not worked. She told the council committee that using a “stick” might be more effective. In addition to the fine increase, MACC plans to step up enforcement in areas of high pet concentrations.

As of this year, only 11,375 of the city’s estimated 110,000 dogs and 125,000 cats are licensed; just 5 percent. MACC hopes to have 18,000 pets licensed within the next two years and reach 47,000 within seven years.  

Pet licensing allows the city to track the dog and cat population, return lost pets and pay for shelter and animal-care services. But because of the low license numbers, MACC still relies heavily on the city’s general fund to cover its operating costs. That could change if its seven-year goal is achieved, Olson said.

A Minneapolis pet license costs $30 for sterilized pets, $50 for pets that are not sterilized and $200 for a lifetime license. The city offers a $15 discount for seniors and a $20 discount for second or third pets in the same household. Dogs recognized by a service program are exempt.

Pet owners fined for not having a license do not need to pay an additional fee to get one; it will come out of the fine.

The Public Safety and Health Committee also approved replacing the city’s annual pet license, which expires in January no matter when it is purchased, to a license that is good for 12 months from the day it is bought. City Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) proposed that change to make the license process more user friendly.

The full City Council was expected to vote on the fine increase and license change Nov. 19, after this issue of The Journal went to press.