Pet licensing fee increase unlikely to boost registrations


  • File photo of cats for illustration for pet registration editorial
File photo of cats for illustration for pet registration editorial (File photo by Brendan Cavanaugh,…)
June 07, 2011

In economics, the term elasticity refers to the way changes in one variable can cause changes in another. An important part of this principle can be simply put — the higher the price, the fewer the buyers.

So, if you want to attract the highest number of customers, keep the price as low as possible.

That's why it puzzles us that Baltimore County, which wants more people to register their pets, has raised the fees for doing so.

The hike in pet registration fees is part of changes in many county fees that began last summer in the county. It is the first pet fee hike in 30 years, county officials said.

Owners age 60 and older will now pay $7 instead of $3 for an altered pet if they register by July 31. After that date, it is $12.25 instead of the previous $5.25.

Owners younger than 60 with an unaltered dog or cat must now pay $15 instead of $10. After July 31, it is $26.50 instead of $5.25.

Last year, the county took $134,026 into the general fund from pet license fees. This comes nowhere near to covering the cost of administering the license program. Nor is it intended to. Officials note that pet registration is about public service — specifically, animal welfare — not revenue.

Registering a pet and outfitting a dog or cat with a license tag serves a number of purposes.

First of all, and perhaps most importantly, all pets must have a rabies shot before registration. The county offers the shots at low cost — as low as $7 at clinics held around the county. Curbing rabies is in everyone's interest.

The owner of a lost or stolen animal can be identified by the license tag and pets have been reunited with owners through tags. An injured pet can have the name of its veterinarian on a license tag.

Although it is illegal in the county for pets to go unlicensed, the vast majority are. County officials estimate several hundred thousand pets live in Baltimore County households, although only 23,000 are registered.

We encourage residents to be responsible pet owners and register their four-legged companions. It is a worthwhile goal to try to raise the number of registered pets.

Whether the rise in fees will have much of an impact on that effort remains to be seen, but sadly, it probably won't help.

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