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Vermont Department of Health, Animals Testing Positive for Rabies in Vermont; available at http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/rabies/rabies_positive.aspx (last visited June 9, 2013).

Vermont Department of Health, Rabies Vaccination Exemptions; available at http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/rabies/rabiescontrolmanual.aspx#rabiesmanual (last visited June 9, 2013).

VLCT Big Book of Woof, May 2014 Page 6


Vermont’s licensing law also serves other important public policy objectives. The license tags issued by clerks allows town officers – and others – to identify dogs and contact their owners if they’re found running-at-large or impounded, and to determine if they’ve had all their shots. The decreased fee for licensing spayed or neutered dogs (it’s half the fee of an unneutered dog) serves as a monetary inducement to reduce the dog population and the host of public health and safety issues associated with strays. A mandatory $3.00 per license fee is imposed to help fund the state’s spay and neuter program. The legislature codified its findings for its Vermont Spay and Neuter Incentive Program (VSNIP) and fund directly into law. Specifically, the legislature found “the supply of dogs, cats, and wolf-hybrids in Vermont is a major concern. There are insufficient resources in this state to care for or provide homes for these animals. Many of these animals are ultimately euthanized or become victims of accidents, starvation, or disease. Pet owners who have limited economic resources have great difficulty affording the cost of professional spaying and neutering services.” 20 V.S.A. § 3814. There is also an optional surcharge of up to $10.00 that may be levied to fund the operations of a local rabies control program if one has been created by a town’s selectboard.

1. Licensing Fees Calculating exactly how much must be paid for the issuance of a license is a multi-faceted analysis involving the timing of the application, the age of the dog, whether it has been spayed or neutered, how many dogs are being licensed, whether any special purpose exists for which the dog(s) are kept, and whether the dog resides in Vermont or is just visiting. We’ve compiled all of these considerations in an easy to use dog licensing and fee poster, which is in Appendix I. The law provides that all dogs more than six months old must be licensed. Absent a town charter that provides otherwise, and with the exception of the optional license fee of up to $10.00 enacted by a selectboard to support a local rabies control program, dog licensing fees are set in statute (codified) by the Vermont Legislature and should be the same amount in Cabot as they are in Pownal or Winooski.

The basic license fee calculation begins with the base fees. Additional fees depend upon various factors, including the number of dogs being licensed, what the dogs are being licensed for, and which discretionary licenses, if any, the owner wants to pay for. Licenses expire and must be renewed on or before April 1st. Start with a base fee of either $4.00 for a neutered/spayed dog or $8.00 for an unaltered dog. This fee will either increase or decrease depending on when someone becomes its owner or keeper and what time of year the dog is licensed. All owners or keepers of dogs must obtain a license within 30 days of obtaining the animal. Failure to license on or before April 1st results in a 50 percent increase in the basic license fee. That means that what would ordinarily cost $4.00 for licensing a neutered or spayed dog and $8.00 for an unneutered or unsprayed dog would now cost $6.00 and $12.00, respectively, after April 1st.

But let’s say you adopt a dog from your local humane society on May 1st.

If you license it within 30 days, the basic fee is the same as if you owned the dog and licensed it on or before April 1st:

$4.00 for neutered/spayed dogs and $8.00 for unneutered/unspayed dogs. If, however, you obtained the dog on September 19th, you have 30 days to license the dog, so you might as well wait until October 1st, when the license will be provided at a 50 percent discount: $2.00 and $4.00, respectively. This makes sense because it marks the halfway point of the licensing season.

VLCT Big Book of Woof, May 2014 Page 7 Let’s change things up a little and say that you adopted a dog on September 19th, but for whatever reason you waited until December 1st to license the dog, which is well past the 30-day licensing deadline. Even though the 50 percent penalty is tacked on to the basic license fee turning the $4.00/$8.00 fee into $6.00/$12.00 the license is still being obtained after October 1st so it’s eligible for the 50 percent discount, resulting in a fee of $3.00/$6.00. As you can see, this can get a little confusing, so be sure to reference the Municipal Dog and Wolf-Hybrid licenses and fees poster in Appendix I.

To this basic license fee we have the mandatory state surcharges: $1.00 for the state rabies control program and $3.00 for its spay and neuter program. The combination of these three fees (along with a local rabies control program fee if enacted) establish the minimum required charge for licensing a dog. This transaction can be represented by the simple equation of BF + RF + SF = MC, where “BF” is the basic license fee, “RF” is the state’s rabies control program fee, “SF” is the VSNIP fee, and “MC” stands for the minimum required charge. It is only the basic licensing fee of $4.00/$8.00 that increases for late payment or decreases depending when a dog is obtained and subsequently licensed. According to state law, “(t)he license fee surcharges in this subsection shall not be considered part of the license fee for purposes of calculating a penalty for late payment.” 20 V.S.A. § 3581(c)(3).

Where Does It All Go?

Now that you know how much money to charge for the various types of licenses, what do you do with it? This money, accompanied by a sworn statement from the clerk as to the amount, must be turned over to the town treasurer within 60 days from its receipt for deposit into the town accounts. Clerks compensated in whole or in part by fees retain $2.00 from each dog license or permit issued, regardless of type. 20 V.S.A. § 3588. All monies received by the clerk, including the $2.00, are paid over to the town treasurer along with a full reporting of the number, type, and cost of each license issued. Not only is this a necessary internal control to prevent the embezzlement of public monies, but for those clerks whose salary consists of more than just fees, following this process is essential for the proper withholding of federal income taxes. According to the Internal Revenue Service, “Generally, any individual who serves as a public official is an employee of the government for whom he or she serves. Therefore, the government entity is responsible for withholding and paying Federal income tax, social security and Medicare taxes, and issuing Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, to a public official.” If the clerk is not compensated by fees, then the entirety of the license fee received is paid over to the town.

So what, if anything, does the town get to keep? The $1.00 surcharge for the state’s rabies control programs and the $3.00 for the state’s spaying and neutering program both go to the state. The $1.00 surcharge must be paid over to the state treasurer before the 15th of May, September, and January of each year with an accounting of the licenses sold. 20 V.S.A. §§ 3581(c)(1), (f). The town clerk gets $2.00 from every license issued (if compensated by fees). 20 V.S.A. § 3588. Everything else, including whatever amount up to $10.00 that the selectboard imposes for the purposes of funding its own local rabies control program, is retained by the town.

2. Pet Dealer Permit To these base fees we may have to add other licenses. Until the 2013 legislative session, this included a kennel permit. A kennel permit had to be obtained whenever two or more dogs that VLCT Big Book of Woof, May 2014 Page 8 were four months old or older were kept for sale or for breeding purposes. A kennel permit was in essence a business permit issued annually by the town. Its purpose was to allow the town to create a record of persons who are in the business of selling or breeding dogs. Unlike other licenses, this permit had to be prominently displayed on the kennel premises. A kennel permit cost $10.00 (depending on when it was obtained), which was an amount that was in addition to the base licensing fee that still had to be obtained for each dog. For example, if someone came into your office on April 1st to license his two unneutered dogs, both of which were two years old and were kept for breeding purposes, the cost would be $34.00. The calculation would have included the $12.00 base licensing fee per a dog ($8.00 + $1.00 + $3.00 × 2) and $10.00 for the kennel permit. In the 2013 session, however, the Vermont Legislature passed Act 30, which amended several statutes (20 V.S.A. §§ 3541, 3541a, 3550, 3681, and 3682) regulating the welfare as well as the sale of dogs, wolf-hybrids, and cats, including kennel permits. The basic premise of the permit remains the same: licensing those keepings dogs for sale or breeding purposes – though the details have changed. A kennel permit will now be called a pet dealer permit; the cost of the permit increases from $10.00 to $25.00 (the town still retains the entirety of the fee); and instead of applying whenever two or more dogs four months old or older are kept for sale or for breeding purposes, it defines a pet dealer as a person who sells or exchanges – or offers to sell or exchange – cats, dogs, or wolf hybrids from three or more litters in any 12-month period. The definition does not apply to pet shops licensed by the Agency of Agriculture, animal shelters, or rescue organizations.

That, however, is where the similarities end. Act 30 obliges a pet dealer to allow inspection of his or her premises as a condition of receiving and retaining the permit. The town clerk must now provide the pet dealer with the Agency of Agriculture’s Animal Welfare Standards documents, contact information for the agency’s Animal Health Section, and information on a pet dealer’s obligation to charge state (and, where applicable, local option) sales tax on pet sales. Inspection of the pet dealer’s premises may be conducted by the town animal control officer, any law enforcement officer, or a representative of the Agency of Agriculture. Such inspectors may, with the approval of the selectboard and at the inspector’s discretion, be accompanied by a veterinarian or an officer or agent of a humane society that is incorporated in Vermont. The act specifically states that selectboards are under no obligation to conduct inspections. Such an inspection would be scheduled in advance with the pet dealer or his or her agent, with the dealer or agent present during the inspection, and be limited to areas used for animal housing, care, birthing, and storage of food and bedding. The premises may not be photographed or videotaped without written consent. Repeated failure to consent to an inspection may result in a revocation of the permit. If an inspector, during the course of an inspection, believes that a criminal animal welfare violation exists on the pet dealer’s premises, nothing shall preclude a criminal investigation into the suspected violation. Results of inspections are to be submitted to and maintained by the town.

3. Breeding [or Special] License A breeding license – not to be confused with a pet dealer's permit –is entirely voluntary and really serves no other purpose than as an official acknowledgment that one breeds dogs. Whereas a pet dealer permit serves a governmental purpose (to regulate the health and safety of kennel operations), the breeding license serves a private one by allowing a breeder to make reference to an official sanction of his or her operations while saving on licensing fees. As with all licenses, a breeding license must be renewed on or before every April 1st, and proof of a current rabies VLCT Big Book of Woof, May 2014 Page 9 vaccination is required for each dog covered by it. Unlike other licenses, however, the breeding license does not apply to neutered dogs (they’re particularly difficult to breed), and this license is contingent on the dogs being kept in a proper enclosure. State law defines a “proper enclosure” as “a locked fence or structure of sufficient height and sufficient depth into the ground to prevent the entry of young children and to prevent the animal from escaping. A proper enclosure also provides humane shelter for the animal.” 20 V.S.A. § 3583(a),(1).

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