State plots dog surcharge
By Hillary Chabot and Benjamin Bell
Friday, September 18, 2009 - Updated 2m ago
State Republicans are howling mad over yet another tax hike being slipped through the Legislature that would slap an annual $3 state surcharge on municipal licensing fees canine owners pay for their pet pooches.
Annual license fees range from $6 a year in Boston for neutered or spayed canines (and $17 for unfixed dogs) to a flat $20 in Plymouth. Angry GOP senators are pushing to name the bill “Toby’s Law,” after Gov. Deval Patrick’s wriggling Labrador puppy.
“We’re trying to collar or neuter these onerous fees and counter the Democrats’ rabid obsession with increases,” said state Sen. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth).
But state Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) argued the fee is necessary to fund a state spay-and-neutering plan meant to snip the state’s out-of-control problem with strays.
“The number of abandoned animals has gone through the roof over the past few years,” Jehlen said. “Shelters are euthanizing animals because they have too many.”
Jehlen pointed out that the MSPCA and several dog kennels and purebred pooch clubs throughout the state support the bill.
But French bulldog owner Megan Doerrer said she’s tired of the dog pile of state fees and taxes.
“I don’t want to pay more and I don’t think anyone else does either. It’s a weird time to choose to raise prices,” said Doerrer, 25, a math teacher who lives in the South End and was walking her dog Brady in Peters Park.
Clerks from cities and towns also oppose the additional fee, saying the state is snatching even more money away after cutting local aid.
“Given the fact that the state has the money and is giving it to cities and towns, it makes no sense to us at all that they should be taking away money from cities and towns,” said Laurence Pizer, Plymouth town clerk.
Pizer added that the state surcharge would deter many residents from licensing their dogs - a practice that is already a tough sell.
State Sen. Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) said while the bill has many good sections - including creating a dangerous dog directory - it ultimately punishes dog owners. Said Knapik: “The citizens already have to pay millions for a sales tax hike. Let’s leave Fido alone