Vancouver hikes fees residents must pay for strays

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Starting March 29, it will cost city residents more money to retrieve their stray animals from the Humane Society for Southwest Washington.

The Vancouver City Council on Monday approved new animal redemption fees, which hadn't been increased since 2003. Now fees for city residents equal those paid by residents in other local jurisdictions.

The owner of a dog or a cat will pay a $25 flat fee, up from $15, plus daily fees and possible medical and transportation fees.

The daily fee increases to $25, up from $10.

If the owner's animal gets picked up twice in a year, the flat fee increases to $50; a third pick-up in a year and the fee goes up to $100. Previously, it was $30 for a second strike and $60 for a third strike.

Livestock carries a daily fine of $50.

If the dog or cat needs veterinary care, the owner will be charged an additional $50, up from $25. If Clark County Animal Control picked up the animal, the transportation charge will be $25, up from $15.

Mayor Tim Leavitt and Councilors Jack Burkman, Larry Smith and Bill Turlay voted unanimously to increase the fees.

Councilors Bart Hansen, Jeanne Harris and Jeanne Stewart had excused absences as they were on city business, Leavitt said.

The Humane Society takes in between 10,000 and 12,500 animals a year.

What animal owners don't pay gets picked up by taxpayers.

Unlike many other counties, Clark does not operate a municipal shelter. Instead, the county and local cities contract with the Humane Society, paying a fee for each stray that winds up at the east Vancouver facility and goes unclaimed after 72 hours.

Fees increased this year. The county and Vancouver went from paying $69.76 per stray to $120. Smaller cities pay less. When an owner pays a bill, the paid amount gets subtracted from the jurisdiction's bill.

Even the increased fees that will be assessed to owners don't begin to cover the cost of the shelter services, City Manager Eric Holmes noted in a staff report to the council.

In 2011, the city paid the Humane Society $150,769 for its services.

Approximately $7,800 was collected in redemption fees.

About 60 percent of the animals that end up at the Humane Society are strays brought in by either Clark County Animal Control or members of the public, and the rest are owner-surrendered. Usually, the owner has had to move to a residence that doesn't accept animals or the owner can no longer afford to care for the animal.

Sixty percent of animals brought to the Humane Society are cats, 35 percent are dogs and the rest are either birds, rabbits or small mammals.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.