Commission Cans Joint Dog Licensing Program

By Beacon Staff

The Flathead County Commission decided not to pursue an interlocal agreement with the city of Kalispell that would have combined the city’s and the county’s dog licensing programs.

The idea was submitted to the commission over a month ago, and would result in the Flathead County Animal Shelter overseeing and running a singular licensing program for the county.

Joe Russell, administrator of the Flathead City-County Health Department, said that one licensing program would be more efficient and would bring in more fees for the county animal shelter, which is the only municipally run shelter in the county.

Current law in Flathead County mandates that dogs over the age of four months that live on county lands must be licensed after they receive their rabies shots. A county license costs $15 for spayed or neutered dogs, and $30 for unfixed dogs. Kalispell and Whitefish also have licensing programs.

Columbia Falls does not have a licensing law, Russell said, and those dogs are typically licensed through the county.

The fees produced from the joint program would support the county animal shelter, Russell said; as it is now, the money Kalispell collects from its licensing program go into the city’s general fund and don’t help with the shelter, he said.

During a May 16 hearing to consider the interlocal agreement, the commissioners told Russell that they did not support the program combining the programs due to concerns over enforcement.

“I’m not necessarily supportive of doing this as a joint effort,” Commissioner Pam Holmquist said, adding that she wasn’t convinced that it is the right step for the county.

Commissioner Gary Krueger said his concerns about the program stem from his opinion that enforcement would be unequal throughout the community, because county animal wardens could fine county dog owners who haven’t licensed their pets, but would not attempt enforcement in the cities.

Russell said that licensing is essentially a tracking program, and the county running such a program wouldn’t preclude the cities from enforcing their already-existing dog-related ordinances.

Krueger, however, moved that the county not enter into an interlocal agreement at this time, which Holmquist seconded.

Russell asked the commissioners to at least consider tabling the measure for further debate, and talking with the Kalispell City Council about it before they make any decision.

Holmquist and Krueger told Russell that the idea for a joint program can be revisited at some point in the future if it needs to be.

Commissioner Cal Scott voted against the motion, saying he didn’t know enough about the interlocal agreement to make a decision against it.

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