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Pet licences not keeping pace with pandemic ownership trend

While cat and dog sales have risen, fewer licences are being sold

While pet ownership has seemingly increased during the pandemic, that hasn’t led to a jump in dog and cat licences in the city.

The number of licences sold in 2020 was down compared to the three years previous and 2021 is on track to come in even lower.

“It’s really weird that the licencing numbers aren’t corresponding (with the pandemic pet trend),” said Lee Niel, associate professor at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph, who speculates some new owners may not be aware of licencing requirements or fundamentally disagree with them and choose to follow regulations.

There’s “clear data” to support the belief that pet ownership has spiked since the pandemic hit in early 2020, Neil said, pointing to increased online adoption searches, higher numbers of adoption applications and a bump in spending on pet-related items.

Despite this, significantly fewer dog and cat licences are being sold in Guelph – something required under bylaw.

Licence sales hit a high in 2018, with more than 14,000 sold in Guelph, either by the city or Guelph Humane Society (GHS), which handles some sales on the city’s behalf and forwards along the funds.

Sales fell to about 10,700 in 2019 and slipped to shy of 10,300 in 2020.

As of Dec. 1, a little more than 8,700 had been sold this year.

Natalie Thomas, marketing and communications manager for GHS, said she’s not surprised by the lacking licences

“It’s just part of our job to continue to educate the city and the community on what’s expected,” she said, noting the biggest benefit of licencing for pet owners is that if their dog or cat gets loose and ends up at GHS, it’s easy to identify where the animals family lives and return them.

Licenced dogs and cats are entitled to “one free ride home” while boarding fees are charged for those that are unlicenced.

The fee for dogs is $16.95 per night and $10 per night for cats. However, there is no bylaw that prevents cats from roaming the streets freely, as there is for dogs, so stray cats only end up at GHS if there is a concern for their safety.

All collected fees are turned over to the city, Thomas noted.

Annual dog licences cost between $40 and $70, depending on whether the dog is spayed/neutered and microchipped, while the fee for cats is a standard $25.

Thomas said licence-related education is always the first priority for GHS investigators, but the fine for failing to obtain a licence is $65 each for cats and dogs.

Given the savings on boarding fees and pet-related coupons that come with licences, the savings quickly add up to more than the cost of a licence, she added.