In our series of stories pertaining to the Richland County Pet License we contacted several members of the Richland County Government which included: the County Attorney’s Office, the County Council, the director of the Animal Care Unit and the County Administrator. Only the County Administrator was willing to talk to us on this subject matter. The Animal Care Unit Director stated, she was not willing to talk to us without permission from the administration.
This story series initially served two purposes. One, was to inform the residents of Richland County about this Ordinance that required them to pay for owning their pets. Two, to see how the money generated from this ordinance benefited the residents of Richland County. But in doing so, several other things came to light…
We began by emailing the entirety of the Richland County Council to see what information they had on this dated ordinance. The Daily Counter News received one reply from the Richland County Council Chair, Mr. Overture Walker.
Which led us to calling the County Attorney’s Office, where we were informed that violations of this ordinance were not handled by the County Attorney’s Office and directed us back to the County Council.
We then reached out to the Animal Care Unit Director Sandra Haynes, she stated she was not permitted to speak with us without permission from the Counties Public Media Department.
We began to notice a pattern with the fact that no one wanted to speak on this obscure ordinance and kept directing us to the County Council. We attempted to speak by phone with a few of the Councils members and were able to finally get in contact with Allison Terracio (Representative from District 5). In our brief conversation with her she sounded shocked at being informed that many people in Richland County were unaware of this ordinance. Ms. Terracio even stated she believes she was made aware of it by mail when she moved to Richland County, and that her pets were licensed. Ms. Terracio went on to say that currently there were no motions before the Council to look at this ordinance from any of the constituents of Richland County.
We finally reached out to Mr. Leonardo Brown, the County Administrator by phone. Mr. Brown was very direct and open in our conversation on the subject matter. We informed him of the difficulty in having anyone from the Richland County Government speak with us about this ordinance. He informed us that the county has had bad press in the past and multiple statements taken out of context, so everyone is on cautious when media contacts them. We completely understood this mind set when dealing with mainstream media in todays society.
Mr. Brown stated he would inquire as to the income for the county from this obscure ordinance and let us know within a few days.
JUSTIFYING THE COST VS. INCOME
In the email received pertaining to the income for Richland County’s Pet Ordinance, we were shocked. The email from Mr. Brown stated below:
The below information represents to approximate (fiscal) annual revenue collected from animal license fees:
LEONARDO BROWN, MBA, CPM
Richland County Government
County Administration Office
When you break down the cost of an average license for a pet of $20 to the income from 2023 only approximately 1388 people within the county of Richland paid for a license. Richland County’s population is 418,307 and the budget for the Animal Care Unit is over $1 Million Dollars paid for by the residents of Richland County.
Speaking in numbers only the Animal Care Unit’s budget is approximately 44 times over the income generated. And only approximately 0.33 of the residents of Richland County posses a pet license, the budget given to the animal care unit is recommended to be $1,298,545 for 2024.
We also reached out to Pawmetto Lifeline, which operates an animal care van within Richland County, who also was unaware of this ordinance and were shocked at the budget given. Pawmetto Lifeline operates a Care Van which travels Richland County to aid in the vaccination and care of pets.
Can the current Richland County Council justify the cost of the Animal Care Unit’s budget considering the low income brought in by the Pet License Ordinance?
And could the $1.2 Million Dollars given to the Animal Care Unit be better spend within the County?
The reality of the Pet License Ordinance is it is simply unrealistic to attempt to enforce, and the money used to operate its enforcers (the Animal Care Unit) might be useful in other more direct areas of the county such as education or health or even Law Enforcement.