City audit finds lax dog licensing

City Controller Laura Chick said Tuesday that the Animal Services agency has failed to collect $2 million in dog license fees and continues to improperly manage equipment and contracts.

In an audit, Chick said the department needs to tighten spending controls -- noting that X-ray machines worth $150,000 sit in storage because the installation cost is too high. She also said the agency entered contracts with outside firms without sufficient paperwork.

The audit examined Animal Services operations between July 2005 and last March.

About 75% to 80% of Los Angeles' dog population -- estimated to be between 400,000 and 800,000 -- is unlicensed, the audit found.

Animal Services general manager Ed Boks, who took over in January 2006, said his department intends to follow all 26 recommendations in the audit.

Boks said the numbers of licensed pets in the city have been declining for the last 40 years. "Our focus has been getting animals spayed or neutered and licensing took a back seat to that," he said.

A dog license is $15 a year for spayed or neutered canines, and $100 for unaltered dogs. Cats are not required to be licensed. Failure to apply for or renew a license leads to a $500 fine -- a figure that Chick said city lawmakers should consider reducing.

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