Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Irate dog owners force rethink on fee increases

Dog owners have bitten back at Auckland City's plans for big increases in dog registration fees. Photo / Greg Bowker
Dog owners have bitten back at Auckland City's plans for big increases in dog registration fees. Photo / Greg Bowker

The angry backlash against a rise in dog registration fees has led to a second backdown from the Auckland Council in three weeks.

The council voted yesterday to keep the existing fees with a small increase for inflation after voting last month to reduce proposed fee increases of $47 to $120 for desexed dogs and $53 to $160 for other dogs.

Faced with the biggest level of protest in the 18 months of the new Super City, the council followed the advice of pro-dog councillor Cathy Casey to hold the current level of fees until it developed a new dog policy and dog bylaws.

"We must be able to tell dog owners why the increase and what they are getting for their money," Ms Casey said.

Jill Parsons, of Whangaparaoa, who set up a page on Facebook to oppose the rise in dog fees, was "absolutely relieved" at the latest backdown.

She said it gave the council time to sort out problems, such as $1.8 million in overheads, encouraging neutering and finding ways to reduce the number of dogs being put down.

"We want the council to get more money by having more people register their dogs," Ms Parsons said.

"And we want the bad dog owners to be penalised and the money to come from them, not the good dog owners."

A report by officers recommended two options to reduce the fees.

A responsible dog owner licence would have reduced the fee for desexed dogs and standard dogs to either $90 or $80.

But as Ms Parson said, under these options, the cost of registering her two golden retrievers would still have nearly doubled, from $47 to $80 or $90.

Mayor Len Brown said the council had been caught between a rock and a hard place after the Auckland Transition Agency cut dog fees to the lowest level of the previous eight councils to show it could make some savings for the new Super City.

This, he said, resulted in 51 per cent of dog costs being met by dog owners and 49 per cent by ratepayers.

The split in the previous seven councils was 73 per cent dog owners and 27 per cent ratepayers. Officers recommended a split of 80 per cent owners and 20 per cent ratepayers.

"I support the need to reward good dog owners, and the proposed changes went some way to achieving that," Mr Brown said. "However, I agree with councillors who say more work is needed."

Mr Brown said the problem was an expectation not to change the 51:49 split and without a solid dog policy the council would not convince the community what would be fair, reasonable and just.

The decision to put the current fee structure on hold will cost all ratepayers another $3.5 million in the 2012-2013 financial year and result in a 0.25 per cent rates increase on top of the proposed 3.6 per cent figure.

Councillor Sir John Walker suggested adding $1 to each dog fee and giving the money to the SPCA.

George Wood was the only councillor to oppose keeping the existing fees, saying the council had been pressured to change its position.

- NZ Herald