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FOREST CITY | Members of the Forest City Safety Committee appear to have reached a compromise on licensing fees for dogs and cats under a proposed pet registration program. 

After much discussion during its Dec. 26 meeting, the committee agreed to add language to the proposed revision of the city's animal ordinance to give residents a choice of paying a lifetime fee or an annual fee for their pets. 

The proposed lifetime fee is $60, which would be reduced by $25 if the pet is spayed or neutered and by another $25 if the animal is micro-chipped.  

The proposed annual fees are $10 per spayed or neutered dog or cat and $20 for each unaltered pet. 

Councilman Karl Wooldridge said this fee schedule would make it easier for the city to reunite lost pets with their owners by encouraging chipping. 

Councilman Brad Buffington said he's "not 100 percent convinced" on the incentives for spaying or neutering. 

"It was not part of our original scope or intent of this operation to deal with that," he said. 

However, Councilman Dan Davis said lowering the licensing fee for spayed or neutered pets would lead to fewer unwanted litters, which in turn would mean a decrease in strays due to fewer puppies and kittens being abandoned.   

Several Forest City residents attended the meeting.

One of them, Marsha Tweeten, said she likes offering different fee options. 

"Whenever you give people choices, they feel like they have ownership," she said.   

Wooldridge said there's still a lot of confusion about the proposed pet licensing program, noting some people mistakenly believe the city is going to require them to chip their animals. 

On Dec. 3 the city council approved the first of three required readings of a version of the ordinance that included a lifetime fee of $60 for unchipped animals and $10 for chipped ones, with no option to pay an annual fee instead. 

However, after objections from the public the council voted on Dec. 17 to send the ordinance back to the safety committee and then start the approval process all over again. 

The first reading of the latest version of the ordinance is scheduled for the Jan. 21 council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall. 

The tentative effective date of the ordinance if it passes all three readings is July 1.  

City Administrator Barb Smith said residents would be able to register pets as soon as the ordinance is passed, but it would not be required until the ordinance goes into effect. 

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