published: Friday, January 11, 2013
Animal services needs attention
MAKE A CHOICE:
County commissioners must decide whether to revamp the Animal Services division and mend its fiscal fences, or take the advice of an audit and privatize the service and have someone else do the job properly.
Lake County's Animal Services Division apparently is in the dark about the whereabouts of pets, to whom they belong and how much to charge to keep them licensed.
While that may be overstating the case just slightly, an internal audit of the division reveal-ed the county is missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
The audit stated that pet licensing laws are not being followed and the county doesn't charge enough when pet owners do comply.
The audit states: "The county could receive $455,864 in additional revenue annually if licensure laws are reasonably complied with and if the rates are comparable with other counties. Currently, Lake County has a 6.5 percent licensure rate based on licensable pet estimates, which means 93.5 percent of dogs and cats in Lake County are not licensed, even though all are required to have a license under the county ordinance."
Pet owners can't be blamed for this mess, according to the audit.
Animal control officers notify owners with a warning that their pets lack current rabies vaccinations or licensing. Owners are then given 10 days to comply.
"The current practice of only issuing warnings provides little or no incentive for owners to obtain licenses," the audit states.
County commissioners will have to decide what to do with the division during budget workshops in July.
County Manager David Heath said he wants to discuss raising fees, which are lower than most surrounding counties. The division receives $66,609 a year in revenue from license fees; its budget this year is more than $1.6 million.
While officials have a solid grip on the county's numerous other fiscal challenges, the Animal Services department appears to have slipped away unnoticed and unattended.
Commissioners have some choices: Revamp the division and mend its fiscal fences; or take the audit's advice, privatize the service and have someone else do the job properly.