Dog owners hard bitten by registration fees

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 18/07/2013
Neale and Joy Christie
ROBERT CHARLES/Fairfax NZ
BIG BILLS: Neale and Joy Christie from New Plymouth with their tibetan spaniels Katie, left, and Heidi.

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Dog owners' hackles are up after learning registration fees for pooches in New Plymouth are among the highest in the country.

Inquiries by the Taranaki Daily News have revealed New Plymouth owners pay more than their counterparts in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Nelson and Dunedin.

"Too bloody dear," was pensioner Neale Christie's response as he and wife Joy walked their pair of tibetan spaniels on the coastal walkway.

At $80.50 each, registration for Heidi and Katie came to $161 annually.

Even with the discounts for pensioners and desexed animals it was a lot of money on top of pet food and vet care, Mrs Christie said.

The honest dog owners ended up footing the bill for the dishonest, she said.

"We lived in Waitara and you wouldn't believe the dogs out there that aren't registered."

The New Plymouth District Council maintains the revenue benefits the community and even the most reponsible dog owners may require animal control services occasionally.

New Plymouth dog owners can receive discounted fees if they prove responsible dog ownership ($29.50 per dog), have their animal neutered ($19 per dog), or are aged 65 years and over ($15 per dog).

Late penalties apply to owners who fail to pay their fees before the due date.

Colleen Robertson of New Plymouth was happy to pay the fees for her maltese toy poodle Poppy.

"You pay for the privilege of having a spoilt poodle," she said.

She said the discounts reduced fees to a reasonable sum. But she said there would always be those who dodged the rules.

"Some people pay for others, don't they?"

The council's manager of customer support, Mary-Anne Priest, said New Plymouth dog registration fees were in the medium to upper range.

The rate subsidy limit on dog registration fees set by council was 30 per cent, leaving 70 per cent paid by the user.

Registration fees provided animal control officers on patrol seven days a week to control barking, wandering and attacking dogs and dogs which harmed livestock, Ms Priest said.

The fees also contributed to the maintenance and operation of the dog pound, dog ownership education in the community and the return of lost animals.

Although some dog owners may feel they were carrying the slack for irresponsible owners, all dog owners were required to pay fees, she said.

"Even the best of owners can find themselves in a situation where their dog needs to be picked up.

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"We do penalise people who don't reach requirements."

The non-registration rate in New Plymouth is currently about 8 per cent.

NPDC employs seven animal control officers, but a recent increase in attacks by wandering dogs required the employment of two officers on a two-year contract whose role was solely to combat this problem.

Ms Priest said a survey of 500 customers in New Plymouth had revealed 95 per cent were satisfied with animal control services.

- Taranaki Daily News

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