Dog license fees could bring in over $400,000

Cassie Debenedictis volunteered at the shelter this summer.
Published: .
Updated: .
Indianapolis - There's a new push for dog owners in Indianapolis to pay more. The head of Animal Care and Control wants to bring back a license fee.

Shelter Director Doug Rae says the money raised could help pay for a medical staff. Animal Care and Control is the largest shelter in the state and it doesn't have a single veternarian on staff.

"If you take in over 5,000 animals (a year) you should have a full-time vet and we take in over 18,000," said Rae.

Currently, visiting vets spend just four and a half hours a week at the shelter. Surgery and spaying and neutering is done at one of two animal hospitals.

Even the Humane Society of Indianapolis, which takes in roughly 6,000 animals a year, now has one full-time and one part-time vet on staff, several veterinary techs and a surgery suite where vets can spay, neuter and treat injured or ill animals.

"We have to have the right care to contain infections and for disease control so when the public comes in they know the background and condition of the animals they're considering adopting," said Humane Society director John Aleshsire.

On Wednesday, Cassie Debenedictis, a veterinary student volunteering at the shelter, treated several cats with upper respiratory infections. "It's pretty busy. I don't know what they do when I'm not here," she said.

Rae said a staff vet would allow the shelter to spay and neuter on site with pets going home the next day "versus what happens now. An adopted animal may sit in the shelter another week before it's spayed or neutered."

Rae estimated it would cost at least $300,000 to hire a full-time and part-time vet along with additional medical technicians. He said if the city charged $12 for dogs that are spayed or neutered and $35 for those that aren't, and they issued 30,000 licenses, they'd raise $417,000 a year.

During discussions at the last Animal Care and Control Board meeting, some raised concerns about where that revenue might go. Given the city's financial challenges, would the city dedicate part of it or even all of it to the general fund? Rae said that would be a mistake.

"If the dollars were going somewhere else I do not believe there would be support in the community," he said.

Rae noted most large cities require licenses for dogs (but not necessarily for cats) because of safety concerns. Indianapolis ended its license requirement in the late 1990s saying it was tough to enforce.

While the Animal Care and Control Board has discussed the license fees at its last two meetings, it's yet to make a recommendation. Debenedictis is among those who hope the board acts. She said having a medical staff was "very important. I think there's so much more they can do with a full time vet here. I think it would cut down on communicable disease and also ensure they get better medical care than is available now."

After Wednesday the shelter had one less person to help. It was Debenedictis' last day on the job.