Springwater dog owners will see a jump in licensing fees starting in 2011 after the town board passed a new dog law and set a fee schedule at Monday’s board meeting.


For the most part, the licensing process will continue as it has in the past. The state has removed itself from the licensing processes – even though they are still collecting a fee – and towns across the state are enacting laws that cover what was previously the state’s role.

Springwater dog owners will see a jump in licensing fees starting in 2011 after the town board passed a new dog law and set a fee schedule at Monday’s board meeting.


For the most part, the licensing process will continue as it has in the past. The state has removed itself from the licensing processes – even though they are still collecting a fee – and towns across the state are enacting laws that cover what was previously the state’s role.


In Springwater, enforcement will remain on a county contract. Town Clerk Pat Wilsea handled the licensing process in the past, but she will have additional work involved with the administration of the local dog law.


That comes at a cost to the town. While town leaders have made a guess as to the cost, they won’t know whether licensing fees are covering costs for several months.


“The idea is to get this to the point where it’s self-sustaining,” said James Campbell, legal counsel for the town.


Part of the unknown is the number of dogs in Springwater. Under the state-administered program, Wilsea said the town registered 200-300 dogs. But the board is operating under the assumption that there are still unlicensed dogs in the community. How many, they don’t know.


Former board member Florence Perkins said the last dog enumeration — similar to a census — was at least 20 years ago.


Owners of altered (spayed or neutered) dogs will see the biggest fee increases. They currently pay $5.50. That jumps to $10.50 under the new law. Owners of unaltered dogs will see their rates increase from $13.50 to $15.50. In either case, the state and county collect a portion of the fee.


“We need to make sure the accounting is spot-on,” Campbell said, encouraging the town to be meticulous in its record-keeping for the state. He said the state’s recent lay-offs gutted the accounting department at the Department of Agriculture and Markets. He expects the state will be closely reviewing dog surcharges paid by the towns and that local officials needed to be prepared for it.


A new provision in the law will offer a break to owners of purebred dogs, though it initially faced opposition from board member Larry Gnau. Owners of American Kennel Club registered dogs can pay a flat rate to cover 10, 25 or unlimited dogs and then pay just the county and state surcharges. While town leaders are unaware of any purebred owners that could benefit, they opted to keep the purebred provision rather than having to amend the law at a later date.


Fees will be waived for special groups of dogs, such as military, police, service and therapy dogs.