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A License to Succeed

Calgary’s program brings in money and saves lives by showing the value of those metal tags

Bill Bruce speaks sensibly and doesn’t have to carry a big stick: The licensing program he’s created in his community in Alberta, Canada, has helped the “stick” side of the department’s animal control work—enforcement—become secondary.

The work Bruce and his department have done in the city of Calgary can serve as a guide to any municipal agency that’s struggled to get the public to understand and buy in to the concept of licensing. Where many cities struggle to get even dog owners to license their pets, in Calgary both dogs and cats must be licensed—and the revenue produced largely covers the cost of providing animal services for a city of 1.1 million people and 500 square miles. Bruce also reports high return-to-owner rates and low euthanasia numbers.

The money collected from licensing goes back into animals rather than into the city’s general revenue fund, Bruce notes, so at budget time he doesn’t have to compete against other departments. Licensing dollars fund the city shelter and its medical clinic, a free spay/neuter program for low-income people, and programs devoted to getting pets adopted, reuniting pets and owners, resolving animal-related disputes, and providing emergency medical care for injured pets.

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