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Should Virginia localities be able to require a license to own pets?

A British Bulldog looks on.
Andreea Alexandru
A British Bulldog looks on.

The Virginia General Assembly is about to go to the dogs.

Local governments across Virginia have the authority to require a license to own a dog or a cat. And, of course, there's a fine local governments can levy for failing to have all the necessary paperwork.

Republican Delegate Tim Anderson of Virginia Beach calls this a nuisance tax, and he has a bill to eliminate the ability of local governments to require licenses for household pets.

"We are taxed to death in Virginia," Anderson says. "And there are so many of these little gotcha taxes where if you don't license your dog or if you don't file this document if you are a restaurant here on this particular day or all these little things, gotcha taxes. I want to get rid of them."

But those licenses actually play a very important purpose, says Buckingham County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jordan Miles.

"Registering cats and dogs has proven to be an effective tool in fighting rabies," Miles explains. "And it's also a good tool to help collect what little funds that the small, rural localities get."

He says that money is expected to help offset the cost of a new animal control facility in his county; money that would otherwise come from taxpayers. Lawmakers will be debating Delegate Anderson’s bill next month, when they’ll return to Richmond for the next session of the General Assembly.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.