Placer’s pet-licensing outsourced to Texas

Animal Services director says PetData projects an increase in licenses
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn-area resident Nadine Hopkins was set to drop her dog-license renewal in the mail to Placer County Animal Services when she realized it wasn’t going to a local address.

Instead, the renewal form was being sent to Irving, Texas.

The 88-year-old owner of an adopted Chihuahua-cross decided to check a little further and found that her $19 was going to a business named PetData. PetData has been providing licensing services since January 2012, receiving a portion of the county’s fee.

Numbers have dipped since the start of the contract. County budget figures from the Health and Human Services Department show the county collected $228,454 in animal license fees in the 2010-11 fiscal year and $215,963 in 2011-12. Its budget projections were to collect $290,000 this fiscal year, which ends in June.

For Hopkins, outsourcing the service means fewer jobs in Placer County.

“Why are those jobs in Texas?” she asked. “Why aren’t they in Auburn or Roseville?”

The decision to move forward with an out-of-state license processing service followed an attempt to create a regional partnership that included Roseville, Rocklin, Auburn and the county. Auburn has continued to collect fees in house while the other three have opted for PetData collections, partly because the data collected will help them comply with state mandates concerning rabies vaccination by pet owners in Placer County.

 Mike Winters, program manager of county Animal Services, said that costs are an important factor in the county decision. One study showed local costs at $7 to process a license while PetData’s fee schedule shows it can do the work for $3.85 a license.

“We’ve saved money but it also means that while you can relicense online, you are also able to speak to a live person (with PetData),” he said. “They offered the availability of getting back with a customer right away. We’re closed on Sundays, for instance.”

PetData’s website describes itself as a provider of animal licensing services for 44 cities, counties and animal agencies with headquarters near Dallas, Texas.

“Our dedicated focus on animal licensing allows us to work with our clients to increase the average number of animals licensed by over 42 percent,” the site states.

PetData is paid per license sold, giving the business “tremendous motivation to increase licensing for clients,” it states.

Winters said its three-year contract with PetData doesn’t mean that the county will be continuing after that time. One of the keys will be whether PetData can come through with projections that it can increase the number of licenses issued, Winters said.

So far, both license issuances and income have stayed relatively steady year-over-year, Winters said.

 “In fact, we’re down marginally from the year before (in license numbers and fee collections),” he said.

Estimates are that Placer County’s unincorporated area contains approximately 40,000 cats and dogs. But just 8,500 have licenses, Winters said.

“It’s something we’re trying and monitoring it,” he said. “Some people say it works well and they’re glad to be able to do it online. People can still license their pet through the shelter or do it through a participating veterinarian.”

PetData collects the $19 annual fee and keeps $3.85. Two- or three-year licenses are also available, $38 and $56. PetData picks up another $2 per year on those collections.

Those prices are for dogs that have been spayed or neutered. Unaltered, the costs are $38 for a one-year license, $76 for two years and $115 for three years.

Winters said one of the chief benefits for pets in having a license is that it will ensure they have been vaccinated against rabies.

“It’s especially a problem here in Placer County because of the high incidence of bats and skunks” Winters said. “Ultimately, if they haven’t been vaccinated and they have a run-in with a rabid animal, it will lead to euthanasia.”

A tag will also lead to a quicker reunion with a pet because contact information is registered with the county, Winters said. Ideally, the pet should also be micro chipped so veterinarians and other care providers can scan it and tap into a network of information, he said.