Rockford City Council Proposes License on Pets

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Rockford residents say they shouldn’t have to pay taxes to have a dog or a cat, but that’s exactly what aldermen are considering.

Animal rights activists say it’s not a good idea.

In addition to taxes that go to Winnebago County, pet owners throughout the city could be facing another fee to make sure their pets are following the law in the city of Rockford.

“I do not see one positive thing that can come from this, I really don’t,” says local animal advocate Kathy Mehalko, from Promise of Love Rescue, responding to a proposal Rockford city leaders are considering.

The measure would force dog and cat owners to get a license for their pets. The license would cost $10 dollars for altered pets, and $25 dollars for unaltered.

“As a responsible pet owner, I already have quite a large responsibility financially to my pets,” said Mehalko, who owns 10 dogs.

In addition to vaccines, food, and grooming, she says the additional cost of a license could get very expensive for pet owners like her.

“To punish them, by adding an additional $10 dollars,” said Mehalko. “Whether you have one pet, or ten like I do, $10 dollars on top of what you already pay, I think is unfair.”

Stephanie Lauer has been the general manager at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in downtown Rockford for more than a year.

She’s concerned the fee could hurt their adoptions.

“I think the city tax that they’re trying to impose on cat and dog owners is going to prohibit people from wanting to adopt additional animals or even have the maximum capacity of animals that they can due to increase in costs,” said Lauer.  

However, Alderman Teena Newburg says the license fee is necessary to help the city make up for a $5 million dollar deficit.

Part of that deficit comes from Winnebago County Animal Services.

In 2012, the animal shelter charged the city $380,000 dollars. That skyrocketed last year to more than $500,000 dollars.

“Rather than the city pay $500,000 dollars a year for animal service control, we would be putting the cost on people who have animals,” said Alderman Newburg.

Alderman Newburg says there were several ideas proposed last night that could help Rockford add additional revenue.

She said the city will have to collect fees one way or another to help fill the $5 million dollar deficit.

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