The Sioux City Council is supporting an increase in the annual fees for pet licenses, related to a separate measure that would repeal a longtime ban on pit bulls.
Pet owners in Sioux City currently pay a $31 yearly license fee for unneutered dogs and cats. City staff want to increase that to $125. City Attorney Nicole DuBois told the council the proposed increase is within the range of how much it would cost someone to get their pet spayed or neutered. The ordinance also proposes increasing the yearly license fee for neutered dogs and cats from $11 to $15.
The city council unanimously voted for the license fee increases, as well as increased penalties for irresponsible pet ownership that are included in the ordinance. The ordinance must pass two more times to be “in full force and effect” Jan. 1, according to city documents.
A public hearing before the vote drew comments from Preston Moore, the Iowa state director for the Humane Society of the United States. Moore offered the Humane Society’s support as Sioux City considers repealing its ban on pit bulls and pit bull mixes in favor of legislation that is not “breed specific." On the fee increases, Moore engaged in a dialogue with Councilman Alex Watters, who said that $125 seems like a big increase, but could incentivize people to get their animal spayed or neutered, so they pay less money for a license each year.
“I get that $125 … seems high, but that was the intent,” Watters said. “Do you see that in other communities, or what would your recommendation be?”
“I think your intent is spot on,” Moore said.
In some of Iowa’s most populous cities, the fees for dogs and cats that are not neutered range from about $25 to $40 per year. Des Moines requires pet owners to pay a $35 per year license fee for an unneutered dog or cat. In Iowa City, pet owners must pay $40 per year for an unneutered animal's license. Owners of unneutered pets in Waterloo must pay $25, with a $25 penalty if they license their pet after March 31.
Moore said he thinks Sioux City’s proposed increase is a bit high for low income pet owners.
“I think people in general want to do the right thing, including spaying and neutering their pets,” he said in an interview after the hearing, “but I think a fee structure this high would cause some hardships for some of those folks.”
Sioux City deferred the third and final consideration to repeal its 11-year ban on pit bulls in city limits. That hearing is set for Nov. 25. The potential repeal of the ban pairs with the city taking steps to revise the licensing fees to incentivize people to get their animal spayed or neutered. Mayor Pro Tem Dan Moore told Iowa Public Radio some research points to unneutered animals potentially being more aggressive.
“We want to make sure that if the majority of the council repeals that pit bull ban, that we have an ordinance in place that will help us continue to make it a safe community, as safe as we possibly can,” Mayor Pro Tem Moore said.
Also included in the animal control ordinance package, Sioux City would increase penalties to the maximum amount that the state allows, for pet owners who fail to maintain control of a “high risk” or “vicious” animal and prevent bites or attacks. Sioux City defines a “high risk” animal as one that chases, attacks or bites a person or another animal, livestock or fowl. A “vicious” animal is one that bites or seriously harms another animal or a person, badly injuring them or causing them to bleed.
If a person’s “high risk” or “vicious” animal attacks someone but does not bite or seriously injure them, the owner would be fined $100. If someone is seriously injured or killed by an animal deemed “high risk” or “vicious”, the owner would be fined a $750 civil penalty.