Austin Considers Pet Registration
A new conversation started last night in Austin. The group that advises Austin City Council on animal matters met to consider the possibility of having a new rule: that every year, pet owners register their cats and dogs with the city.
If Abigail Smith is able to sell her idea to city staff and then to city council; Austin will start a huge database with the names, addresses and telephone numbers of pet owners – along with the animal’s information. Smith leads the city’s animal services.
“Look at this adorable dog,” Smith said. “Recently groomed. Came in yesterday. He’s wearing a collar. You know? Where are his people?”
Standing by a Shih Tzu’s cage, Smith says one of the shelters’ biggest challenges is their return to owner ratio – meaning the number of animals that are re-united with their owners. In Austin it’s just 18 percent. Smith believes registering pets would increase that ratio by as much as 50 percent and would save money. Shelters wouldn’t have to house pets that could immediately be re-united with their owners.
“Animals like that will leave here the moment that they become available,” Smith said. “And that is three days. So, as soon as you think your pet is missing – check here. If you think they’ll just come back, they won’t, because they’ll get adopted on Day 4.”
Each license would be $50. But the cost would be waived for altered animals – meaning if they’ve been spayed or neutered – and for service animals too. A smaller fee would be charged to registered breeders and to show organizations.
“To me it’s just another thing — the city wants more money,” said Ruben Sanchez, an Austin dog owner.
Sanchez’s family owns two dogs. He’s just fed up with all the rules Austin has – like the ones about keeping your dog on a leash.
“You’re supposed to have them vaccinated and now they want you to have them registered,” Sanchez said. “What’s next? You know? To me, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Sanchez’ dogs have been altered. He sees many benefits in doing so. He just doesn’t like the city regulating his life.
Smith says it’s not about the money. She says maintaining the database, helping with the cost to alter pets in low-income homes and enforcement would actually cost the city. But, she hopes, it would relieve shelter overcrowding and reduce animal population. If the proposal is considered by city council, it may take months before it is implemented.