By ANDY MCCAMMON
The Clay County Council passed a county option dog tax at its Monday meeting, but council members agreed the ordinance is still a work in progress.
According to Auditor Joe Dierdorf, the state is requiring counties to enact the tax or be held liable for dog attacks against humans or livestock. With a July 1 deadline looming, Dierdorf recommended that the council pass Ordinance 11-2006-- cribbed from similar measures passed in other Indiana counties-- with an eye toward amending it in coming weeks.
"My suggestion is to pass this ordinance now, then take a look at it and see what you might like to change," he said. "It can be amended as early as July."
As accepted, the measure would allow the county to enact a tax of no more than an annual amount of $5 per dog. The county's current dog tax is $2 for a dog that has been spayed or neutered, $4 for an unaltered dog and $6 for each additional dog, according to Brazil Township Trustee Marcia Tozer.
Ordinance 11-2006 also specifies kennel fees: $30 for seven dogs or fewer and $50 for more than seven dogs.
Revenues generated by the county option dog tax would be placed in a fund that would cover "reimbursement to farmers for livestock kills" and "reimbursement to people who have undergone (treatment for rabies)," among other uses.
The ordinance dictates that 20 percent of the fund will be directed toward "canine research and education."
Council members also puzzled over an effective way to collect the tax. Dierdorf said personal property tax forms include a line for taxpayers to declare their dogs, but that avenue is often overlooked. The result: Many people aren't aware of the tax, and only a small proportion of dog owners pay it.
"I bet 75 percent of people who own dogs don't even know they have to pay a dog tax," said Councilman Mike McCullough.
Most Clay County dog owners who pay the tax do so through their township trustee, a system that encourages non-payment, Tozier said.
"It's mandatory, but it's also voluntary," she said.
Ordinance 11-2006 includes provisions that would allow dog owners to pay the tax during veterinarian visits or vaccination clinics. The law would allow veterinarians who collect the tax to receive a small commission.