Licensing pets good for health
The Desert Sun – Palm Springs, Calif.
The Desert Sun
About 80 percent of dogs in Riverside County are unlicensed.
At that rate, out of the nearly 65,000 dogs in the Coachella Valley, roughly 13,000 would have licenses.
Such licenses show proof that dogs have been vaccinated against rabies and other diseases and also provide an easy way to return them to their homes.
State and local laws require all dogs to have a valid license and rabies vaccination after four months of age. After that, licenses must be renewed annually.
Every animal adopted from the pound is licensed but many people don’t renew them as required, said John Welsh, spokesman for Riverside County’s animal control services that contracts with all valley cities except Indio, La Quinta and Palm Springs.
“A year later, you still love your dog, but essentially, you’ll still in violation of state law, but it won’t catch up to you until your animal gets (loose),” Welsh said.
In Palm Springs, which has its own animal control, the licensed figure is closer to 60 percent, or about 3,000 licenses, said Tedd Nickerson, Palm Springs’ animal control officer.
Dog licensing dates from the effort to control the spread of rabies in the 1920s, which is why it is necessary to obtain a rabies certificate before acquiring a dog license, Welsh said.
“That’s one thing I see as a big plus,” said Mark Dubois, Palm Springs resident. “At least someone is monitoring their rabies vaccine.”
A rabies outbreak in domestic animals has not occurred in Riverside County in the past 50 years because of the intense push by government officials to control the disease, Welsh said.
In 1959, rabies was so widespread in neighboring Imperial County that 438 animals were infected and officers were forced to shoot unlicensed dogs in the street, according to officials.
Nowadays, the main purpose of the dog license is identification.
“Your dog may never get out, but one day it might and we’ll have your dog in our system and we can return it to you much faster,” Welsh said.
County Animal Control officials find it difficult to force residents to license their animals due to the lack of dog license inspectors.
“I’ve already paid enough taxes; I don’t want to pay any more,” Nickerson said as to why more people don’t license their animals.
The county used to employ dog license inspectors, whose job it was to go around and make sure all dogs were licensed, however, with the decline of the economy and the loss of city and county funds, such positions no longer exist.
“Over the last 2
Riverside County is using more technology these days to track stray animals, particularly those with licenses or microchips.
The agency launched a database system in 2003-04 that tracks registered dogs and their licenses and details where owners can pick up their animals to speed up the process.
Once an owner visits the shelter for pickup, they must pay for all the past years the dog lacked a license as well as a $25 late fee.
The revenue from licensing goes directly into the budget for animal control and helps pay for emergency medical services for animals, animal abuse and the rabies program.
Another tool that helps the county animal control officers identify stray dogs are microchips that can be embedded in the animals’ shoulders.
Microchipping does not replace the dog license, but it does help animal control officers locate the animals’ family and has recently become mandatory in Riverside County.
A bill now making its way through the California Legislature, Senate Bill 702, would require microchips in every dog leaving an animal shelter either through adoption or after it gets lost.
Pet microchip scanners, which used to cost $10,000, are now $100 and are kept in animal control officers’ trucks to quickly ID animals.
“When the staff finds an animal with a microchip, they can call the family that very day,” Welsh said.
For more information
Here’s how you can get your animals licensed:
Those living in Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage can visit the Riverside County Animal Control website at http://rcdas.org.
La Quinta residents can go to http://www.la-quinta.org
Indio can visit http://www.citizenobserver.com/cov6/app/alert.html?id=2226
Palm Springs animal owners can go to http://www.ci.palm-springs.ca.us/index.aspx?page=668