Pet license fees no longer affected by sterility


Published: Monday, January 19, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 18, 2009 at 11:44 p.m.

Alachua County pet owners whose cats, dogs and ferrets are not sterilized will not have to pay more for a pet license following action last week by the Alachua County Commission.

Meanwhile, a new nonprofit veterinary clinic that will spay and neuter pets at low cost is progressing and slated to open in May.

The higher license fee for fertile pets and the clinic are linked: The County Commission provided $250,000 to help establish the clinic.

Alachua County Animal Services raised the license fee on non-sterilized pets to recoup some of that money.

However, Animal Services Director David Flagler said the differing fees created problems for veterinarians who sell county licenses at their practice.

"Not being a part of the history of license fees, I inadvertently stepped on the work of the local veterinarians who had spent years trying to simplify the fees," Flagler said. "Also, in talking with our legal department, they think the differential fee is a penalty for those people who have fertile pets and felt that I needed to justify the fee to show that fertile pet owners are creating a larger hardship on the county than owners of sterile pets."

The licensing fees for dogs had been $15 for a sterile one and $25 for a fertile one.

Cat and ferret licenses were $8 for a sterile one and $12 for a fertile one.

At Flagler's recommendation, the commission last week voted to charge the lower fees regardless of the animal's fertility status.

Flagler said he may introduce a new plan for higher fees in the future.

Plans for the spay/neuter clinic were launched last year when Gainesville philanthropist Gladys Cofrin pledged $250,000.

The County Commission agreed to match that. Other donations have been received.

Organizers had hoped to have the clinic open in March, but it now appears the opening will be in May, said Julie Levy, a University of Florida veterinary professor who has worked on the project.

Levy said the clinic is in the process of finalizing a lease for a site on S. Main Street and must then remodel and equip the building.

"We have a search for a veterinarian going on and have received a number of applications from very qualified veterinarians who are eager to work in a low-cost clinic and also one connected to the vet school, where they can do some teaching, too," Levy said. "It is a central location, very easy for everybody to find, and in an area of town that needs our services."

County officials believe that the population of unwanted cats and dogs will be reduced through increased sterilization.

That should reduce operational costs at Animal Services.

The clinic will be called Operation Petsnip - maintaining the theme of the Operation Catnip and Operation Pitnip programs.

Operation Catnip is run at UF for the sterilization of feral and stray cats while Operation Pitnip is run by West End Animal Hospital for pit bull dogs.

Contact Cindy Swirko<0x000A>at 374-5024 or at<0x000A>swirkoc@gvillesun.com.

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