Auckland dog owners bite back over fee increase

By Sophie Bond -
The Auckland Council plans to increase dog registration fees from July 1. Photo / Thinkstock
The Auckland Council plans to increase dog registration fees from July 1. Photo / Thinkstock

Auckland dog owners are still barking mad after news the Auckland Council plans to increase dog registration fees from July 1.

The issue, revealed in The Aucklander on February 23, has led to a groundswell of public reaction. Opponents say the proposed fee hikes are an insult to responsible dog owners and will discourage people from registering their animals.

The council has ditched proposed "good owner" discounts, meaning owners of desexed dogs - the council's preference - could wind up paying $120 per dog, up from $47.

Jill Parsons, of dogfriends.co.nz, is following the issue closely and says every dog owner she meets is concerned.

"From the guy down the street to the competitive dog owners and those involved in dog re-homing, they're all talking about it."

The Whangaparaoa resident feels there are two problems with the proposal. "One is the financial side of it and the other is a mushrooming of unregistered dogs. There are many law-abiding dog owners out there saying they will not register their dogs if this goes through."

Mrs Parsons is confident the council will be "hit by a tsunami of paper" as dog owners make submissions against the proposed rise. Consultation on the Long Term Plan runs until 4pm on March 23.

Councillor Cathy Casey opposes the rise and says that public outrage is being heeded. "Most definitely the response from dog owners is being felt by the councillors and I would say that all of them are rethinking the weight of the increase, and that includes the mayor."

She believes the volume of submissions will have a big impact and thanks dog owners for their efforts.

"Stand Up Auckland Dog Owners" - a Facebook group started in response to the new fee schedule - now has more than 2500 members, with much passionate discussion. One member has created a template submission for those writing to oppose the increase, but recommends people write additional comments.

Upset The Aucklander readers posted many comments on our Facebook page straight after the "City unleashes dog fee hike" story.

Genine Pascoe wrote: "I moved from Tauranga a couple of years ago with one dog and was horrified at the much larger fee here in Auckland. What justification can the Council possibly have for an increase in fees? They ought to be providing reduced charges for responsible dog owners and spending more time chasing up the irresponsible owners."

Sheryl Hartnett added: "Make the people who mistreat their dogs pay, not the owners who love their dogs to bits. Dogs should be a part of everyone's lives - they help to keep stress at bay."

Similar outrage was expressed through comments on The Aucklander website. Adeej wrote: "I'm flabbergasted by this. These fees are completely ridiculous. In the Auckland Council dog policy change documentation, it says council recognises that dogs play a significant part in the well-being of society. So why would they penalise us so much for having one?"

Anne Eckford agreed: "Absolutely disgusting, how on earth can anyone afford a hike in dog registration? After my husband passed away I got my little angel for company, a shih tzu. I live on my own and I already struggle to pay the registration ..."

Dog owner Alma Hinder says she always registers her dogs, but such a hike would make her reconsider. "I am just totally gobsmacked. How does Auckland Council justify these ridiculous price hikes?"

Ceinwen Currie raises the plight of rescued dogs: "The increase in fees is going to put a lot of people off taking on a dog, so the shelters will be overrun and more dogs will die. Are there no dog lovers on the council?"

The council's chief operating officer, Patricia Reade, says it wants public feedback about the fee rises.

"Registration fees contribute to council's animal management responsibilities, which include operating kennels, responding to dog attacks, a control service for dangerous dogs, and schools' education on dog safety," she said. "We also respond to around 40,000 dog-related calls from the public each year."

She says by law the fees can be spent only on activities related to dog control and at present the revenue doesn't come close to covering these costs.

"Auckland Council proposes that 80 per cent of the operating costs of animal management services be recovered from dog registration fees and the remaining 20 per cent be funded from general rates. We are asking the public if they think that's fair."

But questions are still being asked about why the fee hike was buried on page 144 of the third volume of Auckland's Draft Long Term Plan, rather than in the Council's Draft Dog Policy, submissions for which closed on February 27.

Council spokesperson Glyn Walters says the reason for that is dog registration fees and the dog bylaw and policy review are two separate programmes of work.

He said the dog bylaw review is being carried out as part of council's bylaw review programme, which aims to rationalise rules across the whole of Auckland.

"Bylaws often cover health, safety and environmental issues such as the control of traffic, dogs, nuisances and food premises as well as signage and the use of public places."

He says public consultation has only just begun on the dog registration fees and the council wants to hear from dog owners and non-dog owners alike.

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