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FORT SMITH -- The city is considering a plan that would change pet licensing fees.

Instead of pet licenses for spayed or neutered dogs or cats being $10 per pet for the lifetime of the pet, as the city's current ordinance states, they would cost $25 per pet on an annual basis. Pet licenses for unaltered dogs or cats would go from $60 per pet annually to $50 per pet annually. These licenses would be valid for one year from when they are purchased.

Proof of microchipping as a condition of licensing would be removed as a requirement.

DocuPet, a company with headquarters in Syracuse, N.Y., and Ontario, Canada, provided the city directors with a presentation Oct. 27 and suggested changes to the city's current pet licensing ordinance.

"As discussed at the study session, DocuPet will offer full-service administration of the pet licensing program through a web-based portal with regular electronic communication, while also offering traditional methods of correspondence," according to an Oct. 21 memo from Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman to City Administrator Carl Geffken. "Access to the portal will be available to other vendors, such as Kitties & Kanines Shelter or area veterinarians, to help pet owners comply with licensing requirements through those service providers."

The current pet licensing ordinance had been adopted in August 2019, and established identification and annual licensing requirements for dogs and cats, including a fee schedule for these pet licenses, Dingman said in the Oct. 21 memo. It also allows the city to designate a third party to administer the pet licensing program, which includes record-keeping and collecting pet license fees.

DocuPet indicated that its experience with pet licensing programs suggest that a "simplified approach with a clearly delineated annual fee" provides the best chance of success in getting residents to comply with a pet licensing program, according to Dingman.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors unanimously approved tabling the revised pet licensing ordinance during its regular meeting Tuesday. The ordinance will be discussed again at a study session in January.

The motion to table the ordinance at Tuesday's meeting came from Ward 3 City Director Lavon Morton, who said he believed the ordinance needs "further review and discussion and perhaps refinement." Geffken said the board had approved that it not go into effect until April 1.

Dingman said via email Tuesday that although the city has yet to formally enter into an agreement with DocuPet for third-party pet licensing services, it did go through a Requests for Proposals process in the fall of 2019 by which it evaluated proposals for these services, with DocuPet being chosen by the staff.

"Altering the ordinance based on DocuPet's suggestions and experience regarding what is successful in a licensing program will determine the framework of an agreement with the city," Dingman said. "At some point, there will need to be an agreement with DocuPet that solidifies the relationship. We aren't there yet."

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