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L.A. City Council votes for dog-licensing fees

February 23, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
L.A.'s Department of Animal Control estimates one-third of the city's dog owners don't register their dogs.L.A.'s effort to solve its budget crisis just got a little more difficult. Standard & Poor's credit-rating agency has lowered the city's credit rating. At the same time, the Los Angeles City Council is looking for creative ways to raise badly needed revenue.

There's more bad news for a city drowning in debt, looking at service cuts and layoffs. At the same time, the city council came up with an unusual way to find millions of dollars by forcing people to license and register their dogs.

L.A.'s Department of Animal Control estimates one-third of the city's dog owners don't register their dogs. That's unlicensed 250,000 dogs at $15 per pet -- or an additional $4 million to the city.

The Department of Water and Power has a list of every household with a dog.

"We can go to places where we know DWP has identified a dog, but when we cross-check on the licenses, there's no license paid for at that home," said Eric Garcetti, L.A. City Council president.

The City Council voted unanimously to get the DWP list and start contacting dog owners. The license money goes to the city's spay-neuter fund and to the general fund. Every registered dog must be spayed or neutered.

"I believe that this motion makes way too much sense," said City Councilman Tony Cardenas. "We're wasting resources of the taxpayer dollars. We're wasting resources of information that is already at our fingertips."

It's money that can help erase a deficit that's going to force layoffs of city employees. The City Council has approved the elimination of $4,000 jobs.

Dog owners will be told to do their part. "But if we get a list of addresses where there's information about dogs, what we'll do is cross-check that database against our existing licensing database," said Linda Barth, assistant general manager, Los Angeles Animal Services.

The city's bad news came in a phone call from the credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's. Just like consumers, cities are often required to borrow money. The interest rate is based on the city's credit rating, which Tuesday was downgraded from a "double-A" to a "double-A-minus." And just like any other borrower, the bad credit rating will cost.

"As a result of the downgrade, the negative watch from last week is going to cost us millions of dollars to borrow as a standard way of operating," said L.A. Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.

Santana said the credit agency wants to know how much the city has cut, how many jobs the city has eliminated. The answer so far is: not many.