Visitors admiring the beauty of Prague's spires and the colourful facades of its historic buildings are often in for an unpleasant surprise. Prague residents learnt long ago that it's safest to walk around the city with their eyes down. That's because the streets of the capital are often littered with dog excrement, which the city authorities spend tens of millions of crowns a year cleaning up. The money from dog licences is used to clean up the dog mess, though it is not enough. The city council has now proposed the licence fee be increased by fifty percent.
A small brigade of ride-on vacuum cleaners and motorbikes with special vacuum hoses take to the streets of Prague every morning to clean up piles of waste that dog owners failed to scoop up after their pets. This service costs a lot of money and so does emptying dog-waste bins and replacement of new dog-poop bags.
The city collects around 30 million crowns in dog licence fees every year. But as Prague's deputy mayor Rudolf Blazek says, the costs of cleaning up after dogs, the maintenance of dog shelters and catching stray dogs are triple the amount, that's close to 100 million a year. Moreover, while prices of almost everything else have been rising steadily, the last time the cost of a dog licence was raised was six years ago.
The city council of Prague has decided something needs to be done. As of January next year, dog licences in the city should be raised to the current legal maximum: from 1000 crowns to 1,500 a year - if you own only one dog. For every other dog, the annual fee should be increased to 2,250 crowns.
Old age pensioners will still pay only 200 crowns a year for one dog. Exempt from the licence payments are physically handicapped or blind people and guide dog trainers.
Finally, just two figures illustrating that dog-ownership in the Czech Republic has become a major social phenomenon which calls for appropriate responses from the part of the authorities. While the birth-rate in the country is around 90,000 babies a year, the number of registered puppies born in 2002 was 35,000.
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