Volusia County Animal Control Proposes a Countywide Pet Licensing Program
An ordinance proposing county-wide pet licenses will be brought to Volusia County Board for review in December, and the county has asked elected officials to express their support for the program, which aims to reduce the number of pets accepted into shelters.
Adam Leith, director of Volusia County Animal Services, made the proposal during a Volusia County Elected Officials Roundtable on Monday, November 8. Costs for residents range from free to $10 for sterilized pets, and upwards of $25 for non-sterilized pets. A pet license, a tag purchased after a pet received a rabies vaccine, in Ormond Beach costs $5 for sterilized and non-sterilized pets.
Without a central system, Leath said, there is no comprehensive or universal way to track pet owners if their pets get lost, a problem that leads to too many pets entering shelters, permanently increasing the cost to cities and pet owners.
According to the county, 5,645 animals were housed in fiscal year 2018-2019, and 3,623 animals were housed in fiscal year 2019-2020 (although it should be noted that the county did not have data from New Smyrna Beach for 2019-2020; it reported that The city reported that 433 pets were admitted to shelters in 2018-2019). The county estimates that sheltering pets in Volusia County costs $530,630.
“It’s not just one of your cities,” said Leith. “It’s not just unincorporated cities. We are all, but unfortunately, it’s fragmented and so it’s really hard to tackle this problem if we don’t try to tackle it all at the same time and work collaboratively.”
Of the estimated 223,145 pets in Volusia, the county estimates that only 2.51% are actually licensed.
Volusia County had a 20% return to owner rate in fiscal year 2019-20, with only 191 pets returned. While Leith said this may sound too low, the county is doing better than the national average with less than 1% of cats and less than 12% of dogs being recovered by their owners.
“We firmly believe that a specific pet is a homeless pet that can return to its original owner,” said Leith.
This isn’t the first time pet licensing has been discussed at the county level. In 2005, according to the county’s proposal, the matter was brought to a public hearing and 82% of Volusia’s towns were elected to participate; However, the decree failed due to the need for a 90% participation rate to ensure sufficient revenue generation to justify unification, the county council voted against it.
The proposal states that other issues were also identified in the 2005 ordinance: 1) the administrative work was to be done by a third party, 2) the program was not an initiative by the county animal control department but was “supported” by Concerned Citizens Animal Welfare and 3) counties were authorized by cities to issue signs and discounts for spaying and neutering.
Under this new proposal, the one-year license fee will start from $4 for a sterilized pet and microchips to $16 for a non-sterilized pet. Three-year licenses will also be available at a higher cost.
The town of Ponce Inlet, as well as the towns of Holly Hill, DeLand, Edgewater and Orange City, have indicated that they participate in the program.
Deltona Mayor Heidi Herzberg, chair of the roundtable, said it was imperative that the 16 cities come together on the issue.
“None of us have enough law enforcement and animal control to keep pace with population growth,” Herzberg said. “We have a flow of housing development in every city represented here today. How are we going to deal with an influx of people with their animals? You have to have some sort of system.”
The next round table meeting is scheduled for January 10, 2022.