Temporary late-fee amnesty program for license renewal offers incentive to license pets and avoid collection

Pet owners living in Long Beach and the four cities served by Long Beach Animal Care Services (Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Signal Hill and Cerritos) and who have not renewed their cats’ and dogs’ licenses can soon take advantage of a temporary amnesty program for late-renewal fees.

A recommendation for the attempt to reclaim funds and increase license revenue for the shelter through the program was introduced and passed during the Long Beach City Council meeting on Oct. 23. The program will run from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 and will allow residents who are delinquent on license renewal to renew without paying the $30 late fine.

ACS has collected only 13 percent of outstanding citations since 2009, leaving about $938,000 in uncollected fines since 2009. A portion of these fines comprise unpaid license fees. According to the shelter audit completed earlier this year, the failure to collect can be in part attributed to limited staff and resources that are needed to gather information and send it to the appropriate authority.

The Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine considers the program to be an incentive for residents to make their licenses current without being sent to collection, which was a recommendation by the Office of the City Auditor. Besides avoiding collection for both the residents and ACS, the amnesty program can act as a renewed effort to collect delinquent fees and thus keep the pets current in the shelter system.

Parks and Recreation director Gerardo Mouet added that the program can save the shelter staff time and resources involved with further collection notices, door-to-door canvassing and repeated mailings. Two similar programs were conducted in 2010 and 2016, and both met with success.

“The goal will be to get as many pet owners as possible in compliance with the pet-licensing laws and keep them current in future years, potentially resulting in an increase of ongoing revenue for new licenses and renewals in the current and future years,” Mouet wrote in a letter addressed to the city council.

The public will be notified about the program through a citywide marketing campaign. There will be a one-time estimated cost of $5,000, which will be supported by Parks and Recreation general fund.

State law requires that all cats and dogs over 4 months old be licensed in order to control for rabies and as added insurance for a pet to return home if he or she is lost. License fees help the shelter run efficiently—inability to collect deprives the shelter of funds necessary for this.

“If the delinquency fee is preventing people from licensing their pets, this program is a positive thing,” ACS manager Ted Stevens said. “It’s important for the pets to get licensed and into the system.”

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”