Friday, January 14, 2011

City Still Deciding Whether To Keep Pets Licensed

With most of Toronto’s pets not even registered, the City of Toronto is considering doing away with pet licensing. The program makes it easier to return lost pets but only 10% of cats and 30% of dogs are registered, according to Jim Hart, executive director of municipal licensing and standards. Having an unlicensed pet could mean a $240 ticket or up a $5,000 fine. Income from licensing fees goes to animal rescue and medical care but the city is only making a $400,000 profit after the $2-million operating cost.
Last August, now-retired city councilor Howard Moscoe spoke about eliminating the licensing program in favour of mandatory microchips. The licensing system only works when the pet has their tag on, while a microchip is implanted permanently. “It eliminates a huge layer of bureaucracy,” said Mr. Moscoe in August. “You would never have a lost cat.” Chelsea Shaw was working at Toronto’s Dundas Euclid Animal Hospital when a stray cat came in. The cat’s microchip allowed the hospital to call the owners who had been missing their pet for a year. Microchips make it easy to match owners to pets, but Ms. Shaw said some pet owners don’t like the idea of implanting the device. “Some people kind of cringe,” said Ms. Shaw. “They don’t want to stick things under their pet’s skin.” She said that Dundas Euclid’s sister clinic, the Front Street Animal Hospital, does around two or three microchipping procedures per week. She said the procedure is safe and more economical for pet owners than licensing. While licensing can cost up to $60 for an unsterilized dog and must be renewed each year, microchipping costs $67 at Ms. Shaw’s clinic and only needs to be done once. If Toronto were to scrap the program, it would be the only major Canadian city not to have mandatory dog licensing. The licensing and standards committee will review a report later this month about the program before making any decisions.