Proposed ordinance aims to get more dogs licensed

Jackson County Animal Control officials hope that by closely tracking rabies shots they can also encourage dog owners to license their pets.

Under new language proposed for an animal control ordinance, veterinarians would be required to report rabies vaccinations of dogs to the Jackson County Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees animal control, within 60 days. Based on those reports, officials would send letters to owners of unlicensed dogs, reminding them that state law and county ordinance requires all dogs older than six months be licensed and vaccinated against rabies.

Jackson County Animal Control officials presented the proposed change to the Board of Commissioners at this morning's work session.

Jackson Baures, division manager for Jackson County Environmental Public Health, said the change could boost licenses in the county and revenue for Jackson County Animal Control.

It's estimated about 41 percent of dogs are licensed countywide, but officials acknowledge the number is probably lower. Licensing fees provide about $443,000 in revenue, around one-third of the department's total budget.

"Licensing revenue is critical," Baures said, adding Multnomah and Lane county each saw their licensing revenues more than double after passing similar ordinances in 2007 and 2005, respectively.

More licensing will also reduce lengths of stay for more animals brought into the county's animal shelter, he said.

"If you have a license, we're going to get your dog back to you," Baures said.

Animal Control officials said there is some resistance to the proposed change from the veterinary community, which has voiced concern about privacy infringement and a worry that rabies vaccination numbers could drop.

Baures said he believes mailing a letter respects pet owner privacy more than the old practice of Animal Control officials going door to door checking up on unlicensed animals.

If passed, the new ordinance's effect would be reassessed after a year.

— Ryan Pfeil

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