In its search for efficiency, Prescott Valley Police Chief Byron Jarrell asked council members at the June 7 Study Session to consider an increase in fees and to decriminalize certain offenses in the town’s animal ordinance.
Currently, PVPD officers, when they issue a citation for having a dog off a leash or a barking dog, it’s a criminal misdemeanor violation. Jarrell gave an example of when a Phoenix resident visits the town and gets a citation. After 12 months, if it’s not paid, a warrant is issued, and the person could be arrested and sit in jail for up to 14 days.
“That just doesn’t make sense,” Jarrell said.
Staff looked at other jurisdictions like Maricopa County and the City of Flagstaff and suggested “falling in line with what they are doing,” said Animal Control Officer James Risinger.
For a dog at large citation, he recommends that the first violation be a civil violation, and increasing the current $24 fine to $150. If the cited person ignores the violation, after 12 months another ticket is issued that is a criminal violation. That fine now moves from $150 to $300.
“With the upcoming monsoons and fireworks, my guys are out there rounding up dogs. We feel that it’s not right for us to penalize them in a criminal way,” Risinger said.
When a resident is cited for a dog not having a license, staff is recommending adding to the ordinance that if the owner becomes compliant and shows proof of a license, the fine will be dropped. The recommendation for a barking dog citation also is to make it a civil violation rather than criminal misdemeanor. If the fine is unpaid after 12 months, however, it increases to $500.
Another recommended change is when an owner purchases a dog license, it will be good for an entire year, as long as it does not exceed the date of the rabies vaccine. Currently, when an owner purchases a license, no matter what time of year, the owner pays full price and it expires Dec. 31.
“It’s a better use of their money, it’s easier for us to manage, and it’s easier for the community,” Risinger told council members.
One-, two- and three-year license fees are available at two prices – one for altered and one for unaltered animals. Staff is asking for a $2 increase in each time length category for altered animals, and $1 increase in each category for unaltered animals.
For altered animals, for instance, the price would go from $8 to $10 for one-year license, $14 to $16 for two-year license, and $20 to $22 for three. Unaltered animal licenses start at $35 for one year; the increase would become $36, and so on, up to $76 for a three-year license.
Risinger said the town loses money when it offers duplicate tags for $1. He would like to see the town charge up to $6 to cover its costs.
When asked about owners who walk their dogs off leash, Risinger said it’s a continuing battle.
“Our job is to educate. We try to be creative; we don’t want to have the image of big bad dogcatcher. You may have a good dog that is good off the leash, but the next guy may not be,” he said.
The leash is not effective when owners don’t hang on to it or use extendable leashes. In order to have control, the leash should not be longer than six feet.
Councilmember Marty Grossman asked about regulations against allowing dogs to ride freely in the back of pickup trucks, to which Risinger said, “It’s allowed.”
Three records clerks currently handle about 2,200 dog licenses a year. The Animal Control office is looking at contracting with Pet Data to take over the duties.
“The service is an all-encompassing system,” he said, that offers online, mail or phone to license or renew.
In addition, it would send out reminders when the renewal is due, something the town is unable to do. A one-time fee of $1,000 would pay for the website and transfer of data. The animal control portion of the town’s website would have a link to Pet Data.
For every tag sold in PV, regardless of whether for an altered or unaltered animal, the first year is $4.20, with additional years costing $2. With the new system, animal owners would pay $10, with Pet Data keeping $2. An amount of $2.50 more would be charged as late fees; however, the company will offer a 15-day grace period with no penalty. For every transaction charged through the website, a $2 transaction fee will apply whether for single or multiple animals.
“We’re not trying to sit here and say we’re going to make money off of every late fee. We’re trying to motivate people to pay on time,” Risinger said.
Councilmember Mary Mallory, and two others, thinking about their animals, indicated they might be in “deep trouble.” They said they are going to look into their license due dates.