A $10,000 study of the feasibility for Oro Valley to license pets remains in the 2009-'10 fiscal year budget, after an attempt to eliminate the study funding, and comments from the public on either side of the proposal.

"It's a real investment in our future," argued Councilwoman Salette Latas, who's been pushing for analysis of whether the town should assume responsibility for pet licensing and regulation from Pima County.

Councilwoman Paula Abbott tried to cut the money last Wednesday.

"We don't have land, we don't have money to build a structure," Abbott said.

"Let's debate the $10,000," Mayor Paul Loomis said.

"We get our issues out, we do further research," Latas said. "That's the whole point of a feasibility study."

Abbott's motion to cut the $10,000, to be taken from general fund reserves, was defeated 5-2, with Abbott and Councilman Al Kunisch supporting the reduction.

Earlier in the meeting, citizens expressed their opinions on the concept of pet regulation by town government.

Misti Smith assailed the proposal. In a time of tight money, Smith said funds "must be carefully prioritized in only the most essential services." Oro Valley licensing of animals would be "a waste of taxpayer money and time," she said, describing Latas' effort as "a highly emotional campaign best served by volunteer organizations."

Loomis asked the audience to "address comments to the council as a whole. Please do not address council members individually. We work as a group here. Individual attacks are not necessary."

Kathy Shaheen wondered about the potential revenue, and the likely expense of licensing pets.

"I don't believe this service is going to be self-funded," Shaheen said. Given the economic climate and budgetary chal lenges, "I believe this proposal is ill-timed."

"There's a lot of misinformation here I would like to clarify," Latas said. She described a "60 percent kill rate" at the county shelter. "That's not a good enough service for our taxpayers to be paying for."

Pima County has increased its licensing fees for dogs, Latas said. If Oro Valley were to adopt similar charges, it could generate more revenue from licensing to pay the cost of service. Latas suggested Oro Valley regulation of dogs, cats and other pets might create "work for people we've decided to keep on the payroll."

Christi Foss of Catalina expressed support for a kennel / pound /shelter.

"We have lots of dogs" in Catalina, many of them dumped by people from elsewhere, she said. "We don't know what to do with them. My hope is that something can be done."

Sharon Destafano-Webster supported study of licensing services. She said pet licensing and regulation by the town has been criticized because people believe pet owner compliance would be insufficient.

"We cannot let non-compliance be the deciding factor when we're deciding what's right for our community," Destafano-Webster said. Even in a tough economy, "we can't bring everything to a screeching halt."

Latas believes people opposed to a study "don't want to threaten the status quo." She suggested the town's investment in animal licensing "can totally be recouped, frankly within months."

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