[Updated] Proposed ordinance would increase families' eligibility for free pet services

A Los Angeles City Council committee today passed a proposed ordinance that would increase the number of families eligible to receive free dog licenses and other discounts from the Department of Animal Services.

The council's Public Safety Committee voted to change the definition of "very low income'' families who can qualify for free services, making it more accessible.

The measure now goes to the full council for consideration.

The department grants free dog licenses to families earning less than $33,150 a year. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers that amount the "very low income'' threshold for a family of two. Larger families typically have to meet a higher standard to qualify as being "very low income,'' but those are disregarded by the city, according to Animal Services Assistant General Manager Kathy Davis.

"The current ordinance states that we use the two-person `very low family' income guideline of $33,150 -- regardless of the number of people in the family,'' she said.

"If you have four or six or seven people in your family, we still cling to that $33,150 as the guideline for verifying somebody is low income,'' Davis said. "That, obviously, is not a very good way of doing things.''

By HUD standards, a family of three is considered "very low income'' if the combined household earnings amount to less than $37,300 a year.

For a family of four, the threshold is $41,400; a family of five, $44,750; a family of six $48,050; a family of seven, $51,350; and a family of eight, $54,650.

Davis noted other city agencies have updated their own regulations to ensure that free services are not offered to families who can afford to pay for them.

"Other departments, such as the DWP (Department of Water and Power), observe the full federal guideline for the income limits which allows for a family of four, for instance, to be $41,400,'' Davis said. "We think that is the proper and the right thing to do.''

(This update corrects erroneous information that was initially reported.)