Dog owners in Kamloops will not receive refunds for late fees

Coun. Denis Walsh's motion to do so was defeated by council, though grace periods will be reviewed by the finance committee.The $$32.50 late fee is higher than the $30 annual fee charged to owners of neutered or spayed canines.

Following numerous complaints from dog owners, the City of Kamloops won’t refund dog licence late fees this year.

But the city plans to review implementation of a payment grace period in the future.

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On Tuesday, Coun. Denis Walsh put forward a motion to refund all late fee charges of $32.50 paid by residents with neutered dogs in 2021. The motion also called for rescinding and reassessment of the current late fee penalty for neutered dog late payments and either extending payments to Jan. 15 and reducing penalties to 50 per cent of the dog licence fee or asking staff to pursue other options. Council voted 8-1 against the motion, with only Walsh voting in favour.

Walsh’s motion followed complaints from dog owners, who raised concerns amidst the late fee’s implementation this year. Staff noted the fee was introduced as a way to get people to pay their dog licensing fees. However, dog owners argued the $32.50 late fee is higher than the $30 discounted fee charged for the licence itself and questioned implementation of the first-time fee during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city’s dog licence fees are $65, but reduced to $32.50 for neutered or spayed canines as an incentive for owners to help control the animal population.

Walsh called the late fee “heavy-handed” and questioned its introduction. He said he received numerous complaints from the public. 

Staff, however, said communication on the matter dates back to 2019, when the bylaw changed and stressed that at some point, dog owners need to pay their licensing fees, money from which is used to fund dog parks and animal-control endeavours.

Staff said dog owners received a mail-out notification in advance of the late fee implementation and posts went out onto social media. Coun. Kathy Sinclair said enough communication occurred and that it is not a small undertaking to refund the fees. 

“It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid,” Sinclair said. “We’ve done it now and we’re not going back, as far as I’m concerned.”

Coun. Mike O’Reilly said that, when he bought his first home, he did not receive a break after accidentally forgetting to claim his homeowners grant via property taxes. He ended up paying more than he should have and said the experience was burned into his mind.

He noted staff empathy in responding to requests from the public about breaks on the late fees this year on a case-by-case basis.

Mayor Ken Christian noted inconsistency with respect to how grace periods and late fees are charged to dog owners, compared to development fees and others fees charged at city hall. He suggested the matter be reviewed at the city’s finance committee level. Council voted down Walsh’s motion and agreed grace periods will be reviewed by the finance committee.

The city has about 7,600 licensed dogs. It is unknown how many dogs are not licensed. This year, about 3,000 dog owners have been charged the late fee

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