When Luan Egan lived in east Toronto, her neighbours often brought lost or stray dogs to her doorstep. As the rescue coordinator for the Southern Ontario Border Collie Rescue, she’d call the city’s Animal Services department and found the dogs registered in the system would always be returned home. “The ones with current municipal licences always found their way back to their anxious families with just a phone call, often without having to travel to the shelter,” said Egan, who is a part of the Kew Beach Dog Owners’ Association. “I just had the scary experience myself of having one of my foster dogs go missing from their Toronto foster home, and he was reunited with me shortly after he was safely found, thanks to the speedy response from Toronto Animal Services and because he was wearing his municipal licence tag.”
The city has been toying with scrapping the pet licensing system since January because the payoff is too small. It costs roughly $1.4 million to collect $1.8 million in annual fees, according to Elizabeth Glibbery, manager of Toronto Animal Services. Some dog owners have complained the licensing system is a cash grab. It’s a voluntary system where new pet owners choose to register their pets, paying an annual fee of $25 to $60 for dogs, depending on whether they’re spayed or neutered and $15 to $50 for a cat. But once an owner pays, the city comes after that person for money each year. And if you don’t cough up the cash, it’s a $240 fine. If you wind up in court, the maximum penalty is $5,000. “It doesn’t make sense to have bylaw officers walking around here, jumping out from behind trees,” said Kathy Dow, 55, who took her border collie cross to the off-leash area in High Park. “They’d be hiding in the back and they’d follow people around and see if you had licences. I’m thinking, you’re using all this gas and manpower to check if a dog has a licence? It’s a ridiculous waste of money.”
Right now, only 30% of dog owners and 10% of cat owners pay the licence fees. To combat that, the city officials armed students they hired in the spring with mobile debit machines and sent them door-to-door to look for errant pet owners who failed to renew licences. Councillor Cesar Palacio, who chairs the municipal licensing and standards committee, acknowledged the canvassing has stopped. He preferred not to comment on scrapping the pet licensing until a report on the issue comes out this fall.
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