Whanganui animal management staff are putting down an average 30 unwanted dogs a month at a cost of $18,000 a year, council regulatory manager Bryan Nicholson says.
The cost of getting a vet to euthanise a dog by lethal injection is about $50. Up until 2014, unwanted dogs from the Whanganui District Council pound were gassed at minimal cost.
Most of the dogs are found wandering and put in the pound, and their owners cannot be found. Others cannot be rehomed for various reasons or are too dangerous to rehome.
It is not often dogs are put down because their owners cannot afford to register them or get them out of the pound.
"People generally find ways of getting a dog back if they really want it. They can pay off the registration fee with automatic payments," Mr Nicholson said.
The annual registration fee for fully compliant people keeping a dog is likely to increase from $55 to $60 this year, to pay for extra costs.
Whanganui has more dogs per person than most cities of its size. It also has more unwanted cats and kittens than similar places, with SPCA general manager Danny Auger saying his organisation was overloaded with cats and kittens last week.
"There's a huge problem in Whanganui with unspayed and unneutered cats."
Mr Nicholson was aware of a cat problem, but said Whanganui District Council could do nothing unless the cats were deemed unsanitary or a health risk. Large numbers of cats were also a risk to wildlife, and he said if Government regulated them, the council could too.
Whanganui's council has changed the name of its "animal control team" to "animal management team". Mr Nicholson said that reflected a change in attitude, from enforcing regulations to educating the public.
The change makes for more work, and one person's hours have been increased.
As an example of its new approach, the team has even been giving out leashes after a 2015 bylaw made it compulsory to have dogs leashed in most public places.
"We're trying to get more people to comply voluntarily. We have to do a lot of hard work up front first, to get people to understand the regulations," Mr Nicholson said.