With 2,400 animals taken to the Dane County Humane Society last year, county officials hope a licensing fee increase will provide care for these animals, most of which are dogs and cats.
McFarland village officials approved a $5 increase to dog and cat licensing fees at the Monday, Nov. 25, village board meeting in response to a fee increase in Dane County’s budget.
“The intent here is to make sure strays and all the animals in Dane County are taken care of,” McFarland Clerk/Treasurer Cassandra Suettinger said at the meeting.
The license fee for a neutered male dog or cat and spayed female dog or cat in McFarland will increase from $13 to $18. The license fee for an unneutered male dog or cat and unspayed female dog or cat will increase from $18 to $23. Licenses last from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.
Dog license fees are made up of a village portion and a county portion. The village retains a $4.25 administrative processing fee. The remainder of the fee goes to the Dane County portion.
The increase does not account for the village portion of the fee, and it is solely for the county portion.
Dog and cat licensing fees goes directly to Dane County animal services program to support workers who respond to animal calls. Public Health Madison and Dane County has a contract with the Dane County Humane Society as the county shelter, which receives unwanted animals from animal services officers, law enforcement and the public in Dane County.
“In our daily work, we come across stray animals, abandoned animals and unfortunately, at times we do have to impound animals,” environmental health services supervisor John Hausbeck said. “In order to pay for that care, we have to have revenue come in.”
Last year, the program had a $150,000 budget deficit, and money had to be taken from the county’s general fund. The increase in fees from animal services will hopefully close this gap.
The village of McFarland licenses nearly 600 dogs annually. Under village ordinance and state law, all dogs over the age of 5 months must be licensed and vaccinated.
While no one has quantified the number of unlicensed versus licensed animals, Dane County Public Health has concluded that McFarland has a high licensing rate.
“The primary reason to have a license is to make sure that people who own dogs and cats are getting those animals vaccinated for rabies,” Hausbeck said.
After licensing and vaccinations were made mandatory, rabies cases as a result of dog bites dramatically decreased.
Cat owners are less likely to license their animals than dog owners.
“Thinking just because you have an indoor cat that it’s going to be exposed to rabies is probably not a valid assumption,” Hausbeck said.
A common misconception is that if a cat is always indoors, it will not contract rabies. Cats are just as likely as dogs to contract rabies if they come in contact with a rabid animal.
“The primary wild animal that is found to have rabies are bats,” he said. “Oftentimes when we’re dealing with a bat, it’s because that bat has gotten into somebody’s home.”
Licensing can also help reunite lost animals with their owners.
“They can use that tag to identify the dog and find the owner quicker,” Suettinger said.
“Animal redemption for cats is much lower than dogs that land at the shelter,” Hausbeck said.
When an animal is picked up with no identification, it goes directly to the shelter where the owner will hopefully pick it up. Some cat owners believe a wandering cat will eventually return home, even though letting a cat roam freely off the owner’s property is against the law.
“They’re considered strays as soon as they’re off the property and not being under the control of their owner,” he said.
When leash laws were first introduced in the 20th century to combat rabies, Hausbeck said that people deemed the laws as “ridiculous.”
Overtime, leash laws have become common practice, and people are applying similar ideas to cats.
“I would strongly advocate that every dog and cat owner go to their vet and get a rabies vaccination, and the licensing is to confirm that that step has been done,” Hausbeck said.