The City of Edmonton is expected to cover the costs of enforcing the Animal Protection Act by raising pet licence fees and tacking a small increase onto property taxes.

The Edmonton Humane Society passed the responsibility on to the city in February, after the organization said it was “not an expert in enforcement.”

City councillors discussed funding part of the estimated $800,000 annual cost by increasing dog and cat licence fees by $2.50 a year or increasing the property tax levy by 0.015 per cent.

On Wednesday, the community and public services committee landed on a third option: combining the two.

If approved during budget deliberations this fall, the new funding model would bring in $250,000 a year, starting Jan. 1.

Half of the revenue would come from a slight increase to pet registration fees, while the other half would come from property tax. Mayor Don Iveson said the tax increase would be nominal.

The extra money would help pay for peace officers, medical care, dispatch and legal support.

The remainder of the $800,000 annual enforcement cost is covered by a reduction to the humane society’s annual operating grant and the reassignment of three peace officers from cannabis to animal control, a city report said.

Coun. Bev Esslinger said balancing the financial responsibility between pet owners and the general public is the best option.

“Because it’s not just dogs and cats they enforce,” she said. “And the concern was if we increase the licences too much for dogs and cat owners, that people go underground and they don’t purchase them.”

The city will have to amend the animal licence bylaw in order to increase those fees.

More complaints than expected

Iveson said people who register their pets already pay for enforcement services, but dealing with irresponsible pet owners is a societal issue.

“[Enforcement] costs have gone up because we’ve had to bring them in house and expand our services to deal with the demand that we’re having from the public for investigations,” he said.

Since taking over enforcement in February, the committee was told, the city has received more than 3,000 inquiries and complaints.

“It’s a lot more than we anticipated when they took over the service for the Edmonton Humane Society,” Esslinger said.

By comparison, EHS received 3,513 calls in all of 2018.

It’s unclear why the city has received so many calls, Esslinger said, but administration expects that number to level off in the coming months.

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