Spending $550,000 on a kennels upgrade and related facilities was approved by Redland City Council on 20 August. This work is required in part because the RSPCA’s Wacol shelter will no longer take unwanted animals from the Redlands.
Kennels upgrade details
Council plans to expand and improve its kennels and display facilities at South Street Cleveland to increase the prospects of finding new owners for unwanted animals. Councillors were told that:
Re-homing pets is part of an overall animal management strategy where animals selected for adoption are desexed, vaccinated, micro chipped, completed a behaviour assessment and provided to new families as pets.
Council had previously put aside $200,000 for an animal shelter upgrade but will now make an additional $350,000 available for this project. The work will involve refitting an existing building, installing a demountable office building and increasing the size of the kennels.
During the debate on this matter Councillor Alan Beard wondered aloud if the Council should review dog registration fees and use revenue from this source to cover some of the cost of providing dog management services. Brief discussion followed with some other councillors commenting on the pros and cons of “user pays” charging. Perhaps some discussion earlier in the meeting about the City’s $11 million operational deficit has got Councillors thinking about matching income to expenditure.
“User pays” charging
Deciding who pays for what is probably one of the most contentious issues in politics at all levels. Just look at the trouble Joe Hockey has with the proposed GP “co-payment”. It seems that people can tolerate paying for usage of some publicly provided services (electricity and water) but will be outraged when asked to pay for other services.
Economists would generally advise that users be charged for what they use to ensure that goods and services are not wasted. But economics is often more complicated. For example we may need to think carefully about who is the “user” or beneficiary of a service. Why should “good” dog owners who look after their pets properly have to cover the City’s costs of controlling animals abandoned by irresponsible dog owners? Since the community as a whole benefits from public control of stray animals it seems reasonable that we should all have to fund this activity through our general rates.
Another complication is that imposing user pays charging can have consequences for the community that make us all worse off. If, for example, the city increased dog registration charges to a level that many people could or would not pay, then a range of “bad” outcomes might follow. some people might stop registering their dogs, others might abandon them.
So while user pays is a good general principle it has to be implemented very carefully to ensure that we know who is benefitting and that the charges will encourage sensible behaviour.
On Wednesday, Councillors decided to leave the “user pays” bone alone but this is a bone that they may return to. Some general community discussion about “user pays” principles might ensure that we don’t get surprised by any sudden decisions at future Council meetings when a Councillor start thinking aloud.