Rising costs have dogged the city of Mill Creek’s animal control budget.
The amount the city has paid to the Everett Animal Shelter for housing stray animals has risen more than 400 percent in the past two years, from $1,700 in 2004 to $7,100 in 2006.
To nip that trend and to help pet owners recover lost animals easier, the city is reducing its pet licensing fees. It’s also waiving the renewal requirement.
With help from area businesses, Mayor Donna Michelson also plans to offer free microchip tagging on Jan. 20. A small chip can be implanted under the animal’s skin, and a scanning device can read the individual code on the chip to identify a stray animal that has been picked up.
The city’s animal control officer spends too much time driving lost pets to Everett, Michelson said.
“I don’t want to see them take an hour out of their day driving up to the animal shelter and taking them out of our city,” she said.
The city has reduced its pet license fee from a high of $30 to a flat rate of $5. Rather than having to be renewed every year, as before, the license is good for the lifetime of the pet.
If a pet wearing a tag is found by animal control, the owner can be contacted and can pick up the pet in town before it has to be taken to Everett, Michelson said. Mill Creek’s holding area is small and not equipped to hold animals for very long, she said.
As part of its contract, Mill Creek’s costs rise with every animal taken to Everett and the longer each animal is housed in the shelter there. Everett recoups some of that cost by charging pet owners $97 for each pet picked up, but it doesn’t cover all the expenses, Mill Creek city officials said.
The charge for picking up a pet in Mill Creek is $75 for a pet without a license or a microchip tag, and only $25 for a pet with either of the two, Michelson said.
The number of animals driven from Mill Creek to Everett increased from 67 in 2004 to 105 through November 2006, according to Everett spokeswoman Kate Reardon.
Microchip tags make it much more likely a pet can be quickly returned to its owner, Michelson said.
At the Jan. 20 event, the first 200 pet owners who have purchased current lifetime licenses will receive a free microchip tag for their pet, with a limit of two per family.
Licenses will be available at the event. Pets must first have their rabies shots to receive a license.
The Avid Corporation of California provided $2,000 in microchip tags at cost. Four other businesses — the Enterprise Newspapers, Artis Photography, Peoples Bank and Paddywack — pitched in to cover the $2,000, Michelson said.
Michelson, owner of a poodle named Tucker, said she hears all the time from people who’ve lost their pets. Most aren’t tagged, she said.
“The main goal is to have the animals returned to their owners,” the mayor said. “I think of how sad I would be if my dog was lost.”
Bill Sheets is a reporter with The Herald in Everett.