Pet License Scofflaws, Beware!
Some area pet owners are howling mad after learning that King County Animal Services uses purchasing data from grocery store discount cards to identify and target pet license scofflaws.
Animal Services began purchasing this data in 2012. The goal was to bolster the anemic rate at which people buy pet licenses.
Only 23% of King County’s 109,000 pet owners purchase them.
Money from pet license purchases goes directly into King County Animal Services’ budget and funds its work.
Because over 75% of pet owners don’t purchase pet license, Animal Services has to get money from the County’s general fund or cut back on staffing/services.
The Tacoma News Tribune reported that Animal Services spent $35,192 to send nearly 74,845 letters to King County pet owners.
The mailings generated $117,786 in pet-licensing revenue, according to figures provided by the county.
That is not an insignificant amount of money, and it’s a good return on the County’s investment.
Is King County Invading Your Privacy?
But some pet owners say the county is invading their privacy by collecting their purchasing data.
“It feels weird to me, it feels like they’re kind of snooping around in a place where they shouldn’t be,” dog owner Chris Lee told KOMO News.
However, since the advent of discount cards grocery stores have used them to collect your purchasing data.
They sell it to marketing companies that sort it into lists that can be organized to identify key demographic groups.
King County Animal Services is not actually collecting your grocery store purchasing data.
It’s paying a company for that information and uses it to identify potential pet owners.
Animal Services cross references this data with its internal database of to determine which probable pet owners haven’t purchased licenses.
According to the Tacoma News Tribune, the County sent letters to these people saying “The following is a reminder notice that King County Code Title 11, Section 04.030 and City Municipal Codes require a King County pet license for all dogs and cats kept, harbored or maintained in your jurisdiction… Failure to license could result in fines of up to $250 per pet.”
What do you think about King County Animal Control using your grocery store data to determine if you’ve purchased a license for your dog? Is it an acceptable way to raise much needed money for the shelter? Or do you consider it a violation of your privacy?
My opinion is: meh, no big deal.
Companies Already Have Your Data
Grocery stores have been selling data with their customers’ purchasing habits to marketers and other companies for years.
Don’t want stores to collect and sell your buying habits to markets? Get rid of your grocery discount card.
While you’re at it, get rid of your credit cards too. And don’t buy anything online either.
In this digitally driven marketplace, the only was to ensure no one can access your purchasing data is to use cash for all your purchases.
I also support this program because it’s raising much needed funds for King County Animal Control.
I understand if you believe King County is invading your privacy by using your purchasing data to determine if you have purchased pet license. But most retailers already collect and sell your information anyway.
Of course, King County Animal Control wouldn’t need to purchase data of your buying habits if more people purchase get licenses. Here’s the link to its website if you need to buy one (hint, hint).