Orange County supervisors Tuesday approved a series of fee hikes for animal licenses, businesses that deal with animals and residents who have their animals impounded on a 3-1 vote.
Supervisors also called for a comprehensive study aimed at better focusing the county’s regional strategy around animal control and shelter construction.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer dissented and Supervisor Janet Nguyen was not present for the vote.
In all, the new fee structure is expected to generate more than $10 million in annual revenues for countywide animal control efforts. The remainder of the agency’s $17 million budget will be largely funded through city and county contributions.
Officials had cast the votes – which came during the county’s annual budget deliberations – as a fork in the road. If the fees were not increased, the county system would have begun a path toward disintegration.
That was not something that Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson wanted.
“This was a huge victory,” Nelson said. “I’m not going to go out of any business line that should be provided on a regional basis.”
Spitzer said he did not support raising fees, saying “I don’t want to raise fees on pet owners who are following rules by licensing pets.”
Spitzer said he wanted to see an alternative approach, such as having the county cut costs by closing at least one or two days during the week given that weekends are higher demand.
Yet Supervisor John Moorlach echoed earlier sentiments that taxpayers should not overly subsidize pet owners.
“What you own, owns you,” Moorlach said. “Pet ownership is a real serious responsibility. I don’t know why those of us who have decided to not have pets should subsidize those who do.”
Given all of the different options on licensing, education and shelter issues supervisors also proposed having their performance auditor look into regional animal control efforts and come back to them with a broader look at how Orange County’s effort should look moving forward.
“We have not done a serious study of animal care since 2008, so putting a study together would be helpful,” said Supervisor John Moorlach, who proposed the performance auditor idea.
OC Community Resources Director Steve Franks said an update could be expected back to supervisors in about six months.