State now charges $5 minimum for livestock brand inspection

The number of livestock owners in Carson City grew enormously in the past year - or so it seems.

The cows and horses and sheep probably were here all along, but state brand inspectors didn't get around to counting many of them them until the past few months.

"Two years ago we had 27 livestock owners listed," Carson City Assessor Kit Weaver said. "Now we have 90. There should be at least 200 in Carson City."

Douglas County added 40 livestock owners last year to bring the county's total to 190, but Assessor Barbara Byington figures there are dozens more not yet on the list.

Carson City and Douglas County bill livestock owners on behalf of the state Department of Agriculture's Animal Industry Division, which charges livestock inspection fees.

Even though the state gets all the money, cities and counties for decades have donated about 10 hours a year to bill livestock owners.

The growing list of livestock owners now has the Carson City's Assessor's Office putting in 70 to 80 hours a year on livestock inspection fees, or head tax. Byington figures she only has to do about seven more hours of work a year to process Douglas County's newly listed livestock owners.

The assessor's offices have to set up accounts for the new names and input livestock quantities and bill each livestock owner.

Weaver and Byington aren't eager about the additional workload but they are willing to send out bills if state brand inspectors supply names. This willingness comes with the promise that the state plans to take over the billing process in the future.

"If you get us names, we'll bill them," Weaver said.

The Animal Industry Division had motivation to seek out all owners of livestock. The Legislature in 1997 imposed a minimum $5 fee for any owner of livestock.

The state charges 75 cents per horse, 36 cents per cow and 30 cents per sheep, but small-time owners with only a few animals now must pay $5 even if their animals don't add up to $5.

Before the minimum was imposed, brand inspectors didn't make much effort to track down owners of only one or two cows or horses. Cities and counties had even less interest to track down animal owners to collect 60 cents or $1.50.

"The difference is we're now picking up the guy with a hobby horse," Byington said.

Weaver and Byington said livestock owners themselves will make sure everybody's counted.

"What's going to happen is we will have assistance from livestock owners getting billed for the first time," Weaver said. "They'll say 'I'll pay but don't forget Mrs. B.'"

Byington said Douglas County livestock owners who get billed mention there are others out there not getting billed, but they are less willing to share names of animal owners who haven't been taxed.

"They respond 'I'm not going to tell you the names,'" Byington said.

Roger Works of Carson City and Jessica Brown of Indian Hills are two small-time livestock owners who paid their first livestock tax in recent years.

"We weren't paying anything," said Brown, who owns one horse. "We got a letter from the brand inspector. I don't think a horse should be taxable, (but) I think 75 cents a horse is reasonable. It didn't bother that much (to be charged $5). It wasn't an outrageous amount."

The Works family owns two horses and provides shelter for revolving menagerie of lambs, pigs and steer as 4-H projects. The Works run the Arrowhead Livestock Club, the only 4-H organization in Carson city.

"They found me. I was not being billed," said Works, who has four children involved in 4-H.

"The concept of paying a $5 minimum on a horse doesn't bother me," Works said. "I tend to be a strong supporter of agriculture. I know agriculture needs more funding. I just don't want this to be their only source of funding. It should be funded by government dollars, not just user fees."


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