Pet owners troubled by town's proposal

CALERA, AL (WBRC) - By Jonathan Hardison

CALERA, AL (WBRC) - Owning a pet isn't cheap, and it could get more expensive in one Shelby County city. Calera's leaders are proposing a pet tax.

The idea behind the tax would be to help pay for the cost of rounding up stray animals and taking them to the humane society, but this whole idea is on hold tonight after the Shelby County Humane Society's director was let go yesterday and now the city's left with a big problem and a very unpopular idea.

Mayor Jon Graham told pet owners Thursday night his city has been getting invoices from the  humane society for the last several months showing how much it would charge the city for stray dogs that have been brought in, bills that would turn from fake to real at the beginning of next year and they've been running between $2,000 and $5,000 a month.

The humane society's former director suggested the city pass a law that would charge pet owners a yearly fee of $10 if their dog had a microchip and was spayed or neutered, and $42 if it wasn't, to help pay the city's stray dog bills. But Graham says that director was dismissed yesterday and now everything is on hold.

"I without a doubt believe we've been mislead and possibly misrepresented by the Humane Society, and at the same time, we want to be proactive, we want to play our part and make this a safe and friendly community."

Even though it's on hold, the idea of a so-called pet tax had pet owners up in arms.

"I'm very upset about it," said pet owner Dana Hardin. "I've got 3 dogs, and they never leave the house, they're in a fenced-in backyard and they never get out. I can't afford to pay that."

"They're trying to tell you what to do with your dog, that doesn't ring a bell, it's not gonna happen," said pet owner David Thomas.

"I can understand that, but I don't think it should be that high," Hardin said. "If they want, it seems like they're penalizing us, the ones that do take care of their animals, and not going after the ones that don't."

The mayor says the Shelby County Commission wants to meet with city leaders from across the county to try and come up with a unified way to attack the problem, and city council members tonight said stray dogs and cats are a serious problem that will have to be dealt with, and this idea of a pet tax isn't off the table completely, it's just delayed for now.

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