City of Nanaimo is considering amendments to its dog licence bylaw.

City of Nanaimo is considering amendments to its dog licence bylaw.

Changes could give City of Nanaimo authority to collect unpaid dog licences

NANAIMO – City council will decide on bylaw changes that would make it easier to collect outstanding dog licence fees from previous years.

The City of Nanaimo could give itself the authority to collect unpaid dog licences.

Nanaimo city council will vote on changes to the Licensing and Control of Animals Bylaw to make it easier for the city and its animal control contractors to collect outstanding fees from previous years and increase revenues.

Licences, issued annually, are required for every dog within city boundaries.

Rod Davidson, city manager of bylaw, regulation and security, said it’s an important part of the city animal control strategy. The city raises in the neighbourhood of $250,000 a year with the sale of licences, which helps pay for its animal control contractor, patrols in parks, and animal investigations, he said.

While the city has tried to collect unpaid fees from previous years, a city report shows it didn’t have the authority to do so under its bylaw. Approximately $97,000 in unpaid fees on the books is non-collectable debt and will be written off, according to Davidson.

“The existing bylaw doesn’t give us the authority to demand payment, we would ask for payment,” said Davidson, who doesn’t anticipate anger from those who felt they had to pay outstanding fees. “The reality being is if people had the dog they should have bought the licence. In the past, we’ve asked them to pay those fees, we’ve never taken anybody to court over it, we haven’t assigned those monies to a collection agent or anything else.”

Politicians had begun to vote on the bylaw amendments at Monday’s council meeting when it was discovered the motion didn’t include the changes intended. It’s been tabled for another meeting.

Coun. Bill Bestwick, who opposed the first reading, had mentioned the City of Burlington has lifetime dog licences that would avoid annual fees and asked if this is a consistent applied practice that would be pursued with business licences. Victor Mema, the city’s chief financial officer, said the city is looking at the business licence instrument as well to make it a little bit more in the same lines and is being looked at by lawyers.

Coun. Jerry Hong said he’d like to see a lifetime licence for a dog, or even two years, but supported the city bylaw amendment which he said seemed to make sense. Coun. Ian Thorpe also had no problem with the amendment.

“To me it’s just an attempt from this point on to do a better job of recovering revenue which is owed to the city and whether we choose to do that with business licences at some point in the future would be another good discussion,” he said.

If the amendment is passed, fees would be collected beginning in 2017. The city will not pursue those who haven’t paid licence costs by the end of this year.