CRANBURY, NJ – Keeping Fido or Fluffy legal might soon leave residents' wallets $3 thinner, when it comes time for their annual re-licensing.

That's because members of the Township Committee voted unanimously to increase the dog/cat licensing fees and amend the violation and penalty sections of the township code, during Monday night's meeting.

According to ordinance 09-15-16, the spayed/neutered dog/cat license fee would increase to $10 from the current $7, and the non-spayed/neutered dog/cat license fee would increase to $13 from the current $10. Additionally, a dog/cat license obtained after Jan. 31 would be charged a late fee of $5 per animal, plus $1 per month for each month delinquent.

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The committee is considering the ordinance after a survey of neighboring municipalities revealed that Cranbury's dog/cat licensing fees were due for an increase.

The changes to the violation and penalty section of the code were based on recommendations made by the township Board of Health (BOH), according to the ordinance.

A state-mandated dog and cat census conducted in August 2014, which found that only approximately one-third of township dogs and about 10 percent of cats were licensed, informed the BOH's recommendations.

Prior to the census being conducted, an un-vaccinated township dog had to be euthanized after he was attacked by a rabid raccoon in his family's backyard on S. Main Street.

The purpose of the license is to ensure that dogs and cats kept as pets receive periodic rabies vaccinations, as the license cannot be obtained without proof of a current rabies vaccination.

“If you ever had a bat in your house, your pet could get bitten very easily and you'd never know it and could get rabies,” Deputy Mayor Dan Mulligan said. “So just be aware of that.”

Ensuring that pets are vaccinated for rabies provides a degree of protection for the people living with them, he said.

If a dog/cat license has not been obtained by March 1, a first offense violation summons, with a fine of $50, would be issued by the Board of Health Officer, according to the ordinance.

The Board of Health Officer would issue a second offense violation summons, with a mandatory court appearance and a fine of between $75 and $150, if the dog/cat license has not been obtained by April 1.

Pet owners convicted of failing to obtain a dog/cat license would be fined between $5 and $50 for each offense, according to the ordinance.

This year, non-compliant pet owners didn't have a first or second offense option – everyone found with a dog or cat and without a 2015 dog/cat license was required to appear in Plainsboro municipal court.

According to Township Clerk Kathleen Cunningham, a portion of the monies collected by the township in dog licensing fees goes back to the state and a portion remains with the township, while all the monies collected in cat licensing fees remain with the township.

The reason the state receives a portion of the monies collected from dog licensing fees is because state statute mandates it, Deputy Township Clerk Jean Golisano said.

Cat licensing is not required by state statute but is required by township ordinance, which is why the monies collected from cat licensing fees remain with the township, she said.

For every $7 spayed/neutered dog license fee the township collects, the state receives $1.20 and for every $10 non-spayed/neutered dog license fee the township collects, the state receives $4.20, Golisano said.

According to Golisano, of the $4.20, $1.20 is the amount due the state as per the statute, with the remaining $3 going to the state for population control.

The monies from licensing fees that remain with the township are used as a revenue to balance the budget, Township Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Denise Marabello said.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.” The vast majority of cases reported to the CDC “each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes.”

The virus “infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death,” according to the CDC's website.

Early symptoms in people are similar to that of many other illnesses and include, “fever, headache and general weakness or discomfort,” however, as the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear, which may include, “insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water).”

According to the CDC's website, “death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.”

A similar ordinance was introduced in February, but was not adopted on second reading in March due to lack of motion from the committee.

Ordinance 09-15-16 will be considered for final passage, following second reading and public hearing, at the next Township Committee meeting, scheduled for Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. in the meeting room of Town Hall.