Now that the state is turning full responsibility for dog licensing over to local municipalities, Wheatfield will need to increase the licensing fee for the approximately 1,150 dogs registered in the town, Town Board members were told Monday.
No action was taken on the change at the public hearing on the local law to permit the town to begin licensing dogs on Jan. 1.
Wheatfield resident Robert Grimaldi, a law intern, read highlights of the report he prepared on the new law.
The town currently charges $2.50 annually to license a spayed or neutered dog and $10.50 for an unspayed or unneutered dog, the lowest fee among the 12 towns in Niagara County, he said. Based on the estimated cost of materials required to begin and administer the town program, the costs will be raised to $6 for a spayed or neutered dog and $11 for an unspayed or unneutered dog.
The new fees are still lower than the majority of towns in Niagara County charged in 2010, Grimaldi said.
In addition, he noted, senior citizens are not currently exempted from payment of dog license fees, but they will be exempt under the proposed amended law, effective Jan. 1. Also, any guide dog, hearing dog, service dog, war dog or police work dog receives a license free of charge.
The total cost to administer the dog license program will be about $1,353 for the first year, and about $824 per year afterwards, Grimaldi said.
The cost includes purchase of tags (about $150 the first year), mailing costs (about $245 annually) and a software program ($960 at installation and $480 annually).
Of the new license fee, $1 on a spayed/neutered dog and $3 on an unspayed/neutered dog must be returned to the state for its animal population control activities.
"Is that kind of like the lottery is going to go for education?" Councilman Art Gerbec asked.
Gerbec also inquired about the expensive software program the state is asking the town to buy. He suggested a simple spreadsheet could be developed in the town clerk's office to handle the recordkeeping. The charge for the software in order to keep track of 1,150 dogs seems unreasonable, he said.
"This is not rocket science," Gerbec said. "It could be kept in the format the state would like to see it."
The question also arose that it might be easier to license all dogs January to January.
Suggestions were to be evaluated and the local law brought back to the board next month for approval.
In other matters: