Read the executive summary on this page and download the pdf for the full report.

Animal Services Finances: Follow Sound Financial Policies (3.66 MB)

Executive Summary

Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS), located within the Department of Community Services (DCS), carries out both public health and neighborhood livability roles to protect people and animals. Among other duties, MCAS is responsible for dog and cat licensing, lost pet care, animal adoptions, and animal rescues. MCAS also receives donations to promote adoptions, to provide emergency or spay/neuter surgeries and to collect funds for a new animal shelter. This report focuses on whether MCAS properly accounts for and reports pet license revenues and whether donations are spent on their intended purposes.


One of MCAS’s responsibilities is to license dogs and cats that live in the County. Licensing generates revenue that supports MCAS programs and identifies pets so they can be quickly reunited with their owners if lost. MCAS is also required to issue licenses to ensure that dogs and cats have current rabies vaccinations in accordance with County code.

MCAS did not follow County procedures that lay out processes to properly bill, collect, monitor and age amounts due, collect on delinquent accounts, and obtain proper authorization for write-offs.  MCAS stopped pursuing and, in effect, wrote off significant amounts of license fee revenues. In addition, MCAS does not track rabies vaccination compliance.

Lower collections for licenses result in higher use of County general funds to support MCAS programs.  Billing and collection practices were inadequate in part because MCAS did not have all the tools in place to properly manage licenses. The MCAS computer system is obsolete and is not designed to be a billing/collection system or to effectively assist in tracking vaccinations.

The revenue potential of license fees goes far beyond collecting amounts from owners of pets that MCAS is already aware of. We estimate only one in every three dogs in Multnomah County are licensed. A large number of unidentified pets significantly add to the low licensing compliance rate, something that is also common among other municipal shelters. With the prospect of increasing collections from owners of pets already known to MCAS and identifying considerably more unlicensed pets, we believe MCAS should take a comprehensive look at their licensing approach.


MCAS receives both cash and goods as donations. It was not always clear whether some purchases made with donated funds were charged to the correct donation account or should have been charged to the general fund. Strong controls should be in place to ensure all donations are spent only for their intended purpose, are properly receipted and are properly recorded in the County’s financial statements. MCAS will need to do better in all of these areas.

We found general funds were charged approximately $89,000 in FY 2014 for labor that should have been charged to donation accounts. These labor errors should have detected by DCS or MCAS through routine monitoring.