This manual is designed to help local politicians, taxpayer activists, and concerned citizens to lower onerous property taxes by organizing to reduce local budgets, both for their towns and schools.
DOG GONE FIDO FEES: A Look at Dog Taxes & Alpha Towns in Connecticut
*For full charts, graphs and citations please download the PDF*
A dog’s life in Connecticut may be cheap, but it’s not free. Towns charge owners a dog license fee that is set by the state, which then shares in the revenue collected. The Yankee Institute tabulated how much each town collects in these “Fido fees,” along with other dog-related income, and dug up some bones for fiscal year 2008. Highlights:
• State and local governments collected nearly $2.5 million in dog-related licensing and fees in fiscal 2008.
• A dog that lives to be 12 years old will cost more than $100 in dog taxes over its lifetime, or more than $1 dollar a year expressed in dog years.
• There are 211,524 licensed dogs in Connecticut.
• The town with the most licensed dogs in Connecticut is Enfield, with 5,335 dog tags. Fairfield, Manchester, West Hartford, and South Windsor round out the top five.
- Scotland has the most dogs per capita, at .608 dogs per human (336 dogs and 553 people).
- Bethlehem has the most licensed dogs per household, at .236 dogs per home, followed by New Hartford, Colebrook, Killingsworth, and Tolland.
- Data suggests that compliance rates vary considerably from town to town, with some towns clearly having high rates of pet owners who are “scoffdogs.”
- Hartford and New Haven have the fewest licensed dogs per household.
- Orange has the highest rate of unaltered dogs, 42% of its dogs not having been spayed or neutered.
- 16% of Connecticut households have a licensed dog, less than half the national average of 37%, suggesting that at least some Connecticut hounds may be on the run from the law.
- Of the $2,484,000 collected in dog-related licensing and fees, the State Department of Agriculture took $1,177,000, of which $507,000 went directly towards the state’s Animal Control program; and towns retained $1,306,000.
- Animal control costs reported by the towns totaled $9,334,000
- Portland is top dog when it comes to dog-related revenue, at more than $84,000. Others towns in the top five are Enfield, Suffield, Stamford, and Meriden.
- Milford lost the most money on dogs, spending $346,000 more on animal control than it collected in dog-related revenue.
- East Lyme led the pack in the fiscal black, with a net gain of almost $7,236.
- Only three Connecticut towns made enough in license and other dog fees to “turn a profit:” East Lyme, Stamford and Beacon Falls.
- Others lose hundreds of thousands on them, including Hartford, Bridgeport, Danbury, and Norwalk.
Each year Connecticut towns must submit Dog Fund reports to the State Department of Agriculture, providing the state with information on the number and type of dogs licensed, other fees collected such as fines and impoundment charges, and animal control costs. This policy paper is based on Dog Fund reports for Fiscal Year 2008 (July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008) for the 169 municipalities in Connecticut.
By muzzle count alone, the #1 One Dog Town in Connecticut is Enfield, which reported 5,335 licensed pooches last year. Fairfield is second with 4,223 licensed dogs.
But raw numbers don’t account for population size. Using 2000 Census data to compare the number of households to the number of dogs, the little town of Bethlehem is Best in Show, with .236 dogs per household. The town of Scotland gets an Attaboy for its #1 per capita ranking: Scotland’s 553 residents own 336 dogs, or .608 per capita.
Big cities are apparently no place for a nice doggie; Connecticut cities rank at the bottom of registered dogs per household. Hartford gets the Doggie Bag with a mere .008 registered dogs per household. Other towns in the bottom ten of dogs per household include New Haven, Waterbury, Derby and Bridgeport.
Orange captures a dubious award: it is Connecticut’s Dogs Gone Wild Town, with 42% of its licensed dogs au naturale. Statewide, neutered or spayed dogs outnumber unaltered dogs by a 10 to 1 ratio. Portland wins the Canine Celibacy award, for having only 27 out of 715 dogs “intact.”
But at least some of these figures may turn out to be nothing more than a shaggy dog story. According to the 2007 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, put out by the American Veterinary Medical Association, 37.2% of all households in America own dogs, with an average of 1.7 per household. The total number of licensed dogs in Connecticut is 211,524. Using formulas provided by the AVMA, Connecticut is estimated to have 200,654 households owning some 340,896 dogs. If true, this implies that only about 62% of Connecticut dog owners bother to register their pooches.
DOGS AS GOVERNMENT MULES: $2.5 MILLION IN ANNUAL DOG FEES
For all the joy man’s best friends give us, you’d think dogs might be tax-exempt. In fact, Connecticut dog owners pay almost $2.5 million in dog-related licenses and fees a year. Dogs that live to be twelve years old rack up more than $100 in taxes over their lifetimes (though only about $1 dollar per year expressed in dog years).
Annual licensing fees are $8 if “altered” (neutered or spayed) and $19 if “intact.”2 Admittedly, dog lovers tend not howl too loudly at these costs. Law-abiding dog owners paid licensing fees totaling about $2 million in fiscal 2008 – a nice bit of kibble for towns and the state. Of this, towns paid the state Department of Agriculture just over $1,177,000, which included $507,000 earmarked for the Animal Population Control program.
Towns also collect impoundment fees, kennel licensing fees, and other types of dog-related income, which puts a little bit more meat on the bone, or another $396,000. The towns keep 100% of this non-license revenue. So, along with their share of the license fees, towns made over $1,306,000 in dog revenue last year.
Total town revenue for dog-related income varies as widely as breeds of dogs. Two towns, Falls Village (Canaan) and Union, reported less than $1,000 in total revenue, primarily because of low or non-existent impoundment fees. Falls Village reported the least amount of dog-related revenue in the state, just $508, while spending $2,994 on animal control. On the other end of the spectrum are towns like Portland, which retained $84,768 in combined license fees and other dog-related income. The town with the most dogs, Enfield, comes in second on the revenue list, with $33,649 in captured license and dog-related fees. Stamford is third, with $29,034 in revenue, even though it ranks nearly last (162nd) in dogs per capita. But these dollars are frequently offset by high animal control costs.
In fact, only three Connecticut towns made enough in license and other dog fees to “turn a profit:” East Lyme, Stamford and Beacon Falls, whose difference between their animal control costs and their dog-related revenue was $7,236, $6,162 and $134, respectively.
All the other towns spent more on animal control than they made in dog-related revenue, with Milford in the absolute budget doghouse: its 2,148 canines brought the town a scant $13,617, while costs for animal control reached $359,751. Hartford, with just 363 licensed dogs, the fewest per capita in the state, did almost as poorly: it kept less than $4,213 in licensing fees and other dog revenue, while spending $329,434 on animal control. Smaller towns seemed much better at capturing the costs of animal control than larger communities, which have to make up a greater percentage of the difference from general funds.
Altogether, state and town dog revenue combined last year was nearly $2,500,000, while Animal Control Costs reported by the towns topped $9,355,000 – a difference of nearly $6.5 million or nearly three times the revenue.
116 towns in Connecticut reported “other income” in their Dog Fund Reports totaling $3,899,196. Amounts ranged from $4 (Andover) to $222,918 (Danbury) and averaged $33,614. According to the Department of Agriculture, this figure should include only dog-related revenue, such as donations and grants. However, notations on some of the town reports sourced the money to the town’s own general fund. Due to this lack of clarity and consistency, this report excludes the “other income” category from its calculation of dog-related revenue against animal control costs, although the breakdown of all sources of income are shown in the Dogs in Connecticut Towns table.
CONCLUSION: ONE LAST BONE TO PICK
While not every dollar of a town’s animal control disbursements has dog paw prints on it, it’s safe to say that many activities of the town animal control officer are dog related. Therefore, non-dog owners, through their property taxes, may be subsidizing irresponsible dog owners.
On the other paw, though Fido fees may seem modest compared to their societal costs, dog-owning humans pay additional fees to the state through the 6% sales tax. This applies to dog food, toys and bedding, and many over-the-counter medicines such as flea, tick and heartworm pills. According to BusinessWeek, the pet economy is worth an annual $41 billion dollars nationally. A typical 45 pound dog, eating brand name dog food and taking a monthly dose of flea, tick and heartworm preventatives, costs $40 a year in Connecticut sales tax, or nearly $500 over a twelve year lifespan. So, whether it’s through a dog license fee, a state sales tax on dog food, or a federal corporate tax on a pet supply store, man’s best friend must nonetheless pay the Man.