OLEAN — With so many dogs unlicensed in the city, officials have started looking at how to better handle Fido’s paperwork.
During a Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday, council President John Crawford, D-Ward 5, asked fellow aldermen to consider changes to the city’s dog licensing in an effort to increase participation by dog owners.
While reviewing the city code for the rates — Crawford proposes changing the code to allow the council to change the rates without further code changes in the future — the alderman learned there are roughly 550 dogs licensed in the city.
In a city with more than 6,000 households, and a national average of a dog in 60 percent of homes, “the number of dogs registered in the city is vastly underrated,” he said. He estimates there are more than 3,000 dogs in the city, but only $6,600 in revenue from the $15 licenses last year.
City attorney Nick DiCerbo said that the city has received around $2,500 in fines through the city court this fiscal year from unlicensed dog cases.
“I wouldn’t say it’s our top priority” for crime enforcement, he said, “but we enforce it, we do it.”
The state has mandated dog licenses since 1894, with the current law requiring all dogs age 4 months and older to be licensed and vaccinated for rabies.
The city used to have an animal control officer, Crawford said, but the position was eliminated more than a decade ago due to finances.
As well as avoiding fines for noncompliance, DiCerbo said he saved $600 on Tuesday when his two dogs got out because of licensing. Because the city could identify the dogs and contact his family, the dogs were returned without being taken to the SPCA and incurring $300 each in fees.
“From a practical perspective, as a dog owner, it makes sense,” he said.
The pocketbook may be one way of getting more compliance, said Alderman Paul Gonzalez, D-Ward 3, suggesting putting a fine “so high that it would be insane not to” get a license, while also cutting the price of licenses to a bare minimum.
Another motivator could be the proposed dog park for Oak Hill Park, Crawford said, suggesting making licensing mandatory for any dogs brought into the dog park.
The best tool could be a dog census, DiCerbo said, adding the city has tried to get the $10,000 to $15,000 for the project in the budget previously. The census would involve a door-to-door query by census-takers, he said, and would give a relatively accurate count of kept canines.
How licenses are renewed could also be on the table.
Getting a dog license “is a hassle,” Crawford said, noting it took him two trips to city hall and a trip to the vet to get his dog’s license renewal done. He suggested looking into multi-year registrations for owners with three-year rabies vaccination certificates.
(Contact City Editor Bob Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)