A little known fact about Magnolia is that in order to keep a pet within the city limits, a pet tax of four dollars is to be paid before March each first of the year to the city treasurer.
Section 4-24 in the Magnolia Code states that it is unlawful for any person to keep or maintain any dog within the city without first paying this tax every year. Unlike the vaccination section, however, it does not list any punishment if a citizen were to simply not pay. Section 4-25 does state that if a dog has not been given a rabies vaccination within the preceding year, they shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. The goal here is not to get more people in trouble, the goal is to continue to find ways for our citizens to enjoy their life in Magnolia. The Banner-News has recently reported on several projects the city is currently working toward like the upcoming splash pad at East Side Park and the new park on the downtown square. These are great additions to our town, but currently, besides a few trails that allow pets on leashes, there is no place we can take our furry friends and let them run free, safely.
A pet park is an idea that can be fostered easily. It would be relatively cheap to build compared to other projects, all the while creating a space that hundreds of residents can use. We recently ran a poll on our Facebook page to get some rough data on how many people own pets in Magnolia. From the poll of 239 responses, 198 voted yes, they did own at least one pet. If we do some basic algebra and compare those results to the population of Magnolia, AR as of 2016 – according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11,601 is the current population – 9,611 citizens own pets. That number seems a tad high, so we also did the math based on the number of people who commented they own pets, 163. Based on that number, approximately 7,911, or 68 percent of residents own a pet in Magnolia.
With so many pet owners, one would assume that citizens are abiding by the laws and performing their due diligence by paying the tax to own a right. This assumption is false: 85 pet tags have been registered as of the writing of this article for the 2018 year and at $4 dollars a tag, the city has received a total revenue of $340 dollars. That amount is completely negligible when compared to the potential $16,000 if even just half of pet owners registered their pets and paid the tax. The potential use for that amount of money can then be directly fueled back into the community in the construction and upkeep of a community space that pets and owners alike can enjoy freely.
The only role left to fill is how this proposal will be monitored and enforced. Neighboring cities like Camden leave the tax collection to the Veterinarians. Simply put, when owners take their pets in for a yearly check up, boarding stay, or even grooming, the animals must be actively registered in the city in order to receive care. It goes without saying that emergency care would be exempt from this rule, but after the emergency passes, proper registration should still occur. Other agencies like CCAPS (Columbia County Animal Protection Society) could also act as a liaison for the city in the tax collection and administration requirements for pets. While the burden increases on the individuals who take care of our pets, the pros outweigh the few cons of this new system. A study by Emily Weiss, Margaret Slater, Linda Lord in Animals : an Open Access Journal from MDPI, shows that lost animals are found and returned to owners more often with proper identification tags and registration than those animals without. The funding could also be used for a pet friendly area in Magnolia that is safe and welcoming to all animals as well as potentially renovate the facilities we have currently.
Residents of Magnolia should be excited about the new changes coming down the pipeline in the city. A new splash pad, downtown park, and more are on the way. But, residents should also continue to find ways to better the lives of not only themselves, but their pets too. Pets are family and family looks out for each other.