The New Year has just rolled in. Now is as good a time as any for a little spring housecleaning.
At least when it comes to pet licensing fees in cities, villages and other municipalities around the area.
A recent Journal Times report showed half the municipalities in Racine County have pet licensing fees that are out of line with state statutes — and they have for years.
Under state law, municipalities are required to give a three-month grace period for pet owners to license their animals after the first of each year, essentially putting the deadline at April 1.
But after the Village of Caledonia updated its pet ordinances recently, a Journal Times check of area municipalities showed several municipalities — including the city of Racine, villages of Sturtevant and Elmwood Park were issuing those late fines as early as Feb. 1, two months before the state-imposed grace period expires.
Additionally, state officials say municipalities can only levy a $5 late fee on those pet licenses, but the City of Racine charges double that, as do Mount Pleasant, North Bay and the City of Burlington.
Caledonia, which just updated its ordinance, went with a $5 late fee between Dec. 31 and April 1, but then added a $25 additional fee for licenses renewed after that.
Those variations of interpretation may require some clarification from state lawmakers.
What’s strange about the situation is that the state Legislature required the three-month grace period on pet licensing in 1980 — 39 years ago — and we would have thought somewhere, over those years, the issue would have come up and been resolved.
We suspect that we’re not talking large revenue amounts for these fines, so perhaps they haven’t gotten more attention.
We should also note that when the City of Racine began a municipal crackdown on weeds, garbage and house maintenance issues 18 months ago, it licensed 4,460 pets — which, according to pet demographic studies — meant only 11 percent of the city’s dogs and cats were licensed.
That’s probably an editorial for another day.
In the meantime, city and village officials have indicated they will work to bring their ordinances into compliance with state law; a little housecleaning that’s overdue.
Sometimes writing ordinances can be a little like herding cats and dogs.