Research presented by Lebanon Public Safety Director Mike Justice at a non-voting city work session last week has been a hot topic among local pet owners.
Justice said he has received countless phone calls and emails from citizens concerned about how a "pet tax" would affect them, after reports claimed that he proposed a registration tax of $25 for all cats and dogs up to four animals at the meeting.
Justice clarified on Tuesday that an official pet tax proposal was never made. "We are just talking about ways to regulate what is acceptable and what was given was framework from around the nation," he said. "We just presented research."
The city will hold a public meeting on the proposed pet registration Monday, April 20, from 4-5 p.m. at Lebanon City Hall, according to a release from Mayor Philip Craighead's office.
"This improved animal control program is more about the helping of pets in need," the mayor stated in a release. "Once the whole program is laid out, I believe you will be proud of what we hope to achieve for our city."
Justice said that the city does not have protocol in place for the number of animals a resident can have without being a sanctioned foster shelter or registered breeder.
"We have a problem with an excessive number of dogs and animals kept in residences. We get complaints all the time, but our current laws don't prohibit this and it results in nuisance and sanitary issues," he explained.
Justice gathered information about how other American cities have handed these excessive pet issues. He said that cities charge anywhere from $5-75 fees per animal.
"Council will be studying this issue in the coming weeks," Craighead said in his release. "There are several options in reference to how we need to start the program, possibly by offering this service on a voluntary basis, while placing the fees on those who continue to abuse these animals."
"There was never a fee set. We are just talking," he said, adding that if a minimal fee was enforced it could cover microchipping for pets, a tag for owners and two or three inoculations administered at cost.
"(At this time) I don't believe we are in a position to do this, but it is a way to combat hoarders and puppy mills," he said.
Justice continued that many pet hoarders are not ill-willed. "People have the best of intentions when they pick up strays, but a lot of times they end up overwhelmed," he said. "It isn't uncommon for us to get a complaint that a neighbor has 20 dogs that are not being fed and watered or have veterinary care. I don't know many people that can provide that care for that number of animals."
Justice recommended that those with a love for animals apply to become a shelter volunteer with Lebanon Animal Control, now under the direction of Public Safety, instead of taking in more pets than they can adequately care for.
Although the next step for a pet tax is uncertain, Justice said that they will be taking two ordinances to City Council as soon as possible. These ordinances relate to anti-tethering - where a dog cannot stay tied to a fixed post without a run - and providing adequate shelter for animals - where animals are not made to sleep on the ground without some sort of overhead covering and bedding.
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.