Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kern County's New Licesning Plan Working

In January Kern County implemented a new licensing program called PEET - Public Education Enforcement Team. Kern County Animal Control hired two people to implement the program, at a cost of $66,000 annually.

The two officers would go door-to-door and speak with dog owners about licensing. But they didn't just issue fix-it tickets or cite anyone for a lack of a license. Instead, they timed the door-to-door program to coincide with upcoming rabies vaccination clinics. Folks could get their dogs vaccinated cheaply and get a license at the same time.

Dog owners can purchase a yearly license or a 3-yr-license. For castrated animals, a yearly license is $15, 3-yrs is $30 (way better deal). For unaltered animals, it is much more expensive - $60/year for one-year or $120 for three years. There is a senior citizen discount for neutered dogs. Kern County makes it relatively easy to license dogs and offers an online renewal service.

After six months, the program was recently evaluated. And it's working.

I don't have hands on the actual data, but the program has brought in $104,000, a profit of $38,000.

The profit will be used directly for low-cost spay and neuter programs.

I think this program works for the following reasons:
  • It does not criminalize dog owners. 
  • It dedicates two staff members to the program. That is, it's not being foisted on often over-burdened animal control officers.
  • It includes and focuses on education, using a non-offensive approach.
  • It ties in the door-door program with upcoming low-cost rabies vaccine clinics with the ability to license.
  • It includes information on low-cost spay/neuter programs and, most importantly, uses the profits from the licensing fees for low-cost neuter programs.
  • It makes it easy for people to re-new licenses online and easier to license offline.
And guess where Kern County got a lot of its ideas? Calgary (another look). The model city for a properly run animal control. They have a 91% dog licensing compliance rate and, for dogs, a 6% kill rate. It's easy to get a license in Calgary - they offer them practically everywhere, and unlike in the US, you don't need a rabies vaccine to get a license. Makes sense - the easier you make it to get a license, the more likely it is people will get it. Of course, we can't offer the rabies exemption until laws are changed, so Kern County has tried to find a way around that by pushing licensing around low-cost rabies clinics. They could (and may) offer free rabies vaccines and licenses as well.

It took Calgary almost 20 years to get where it's at, so don't expect miracles in Kern County. However I think it's impressive that they've been able to fund this education program within the first six months of its implementation.. I wish them the best - Kern County has a hi-kill rate and very low licensing compliance rates...any improvement is good.

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