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Auburn working out details on pet licensing

When the Auburn Valley Humane Society opens its shelter on A Street Southeast Jan. 1 and the City's own animal control officer is on board, King County Animal Control's service ends for Auburn residents.

On that day PetData, the City's vendor for animal licensing services, begins collecting pet license fees to help cover the cost of shelter operations, per the City's contract with AVHS.

As King County will no longer provide animal control services to Auburn residents after Dec. 31, Jan. 1 is also the day the once-a-year pet licensing fees Auburn residents have paid King County at some point over the last 12 months stop corresponding to a county license.

Because City leaders are unwilling right after the new year to ask pet owners to renew the yearly license they may only recently purchased from King County, their preference at this point is to have the pet owners renew in whatever month in 2013 that their yearly licenses are up.

An ordinance that would make that preference official is working its way through various committees on its way to a full City Council vote.

On the positive side, City leaders say that the county licenses will be honored by the new animal control system under the City's umbrella. The down side is that for months the City will be short on money it needs because by contract it has agreed to partner with AVHS based on a projected $240,000 in yearly animal license revenues.

"We have two budget problems," Michael Hursh, the City's community services manager, told members of the Municipal Services Committee Monday. "One is that in the first year there is going to be a gap in the first couple of quarterly payments. The second issue is that the county's best year in collecting licensing fees through history is approximately $140,000. We're on the hook for $240,000, so there's a gap of $100,000, in addition to the management and staff costs (due to PetData)."

The City's first quarterly payment to AVHS is due in March. Historically, most people pay for their licenses later in the year.

City leaders expect to spend $40,000 on an advertising and marketing campaign to get the word out about the new animal control services.

The new animal control officer will be paid for out of the City's general fund and managed by the Auburn Police Department.

Still unanswered: what happens to the portion of the yearly fee left unused by Jan. 1? Can King county keep it? Should the City ask for it? Can pet licensees ask for a rebate?

PetData serves the cities of Bothell and Lakewood and the town of Steilacoom among its 45 clients throughout the United States. It will collect the licensing revenue, and after extracting its administrative fee, turn the money over to the City of Auburn, which will then forward 100 percent of it to AVHS.

E-mails and calls to KCAC were not returned for this article.

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