MODESTO -- Stanislaus Animal Services Agency is declaring amnesty in January for residents who have unlicensed dogs.
Throughout the month, residents of Modesto, the county unincorporated area, Ceres, Patterson, Waterford and Hughson can purchase dog licenses without paying late fees or penalties. Those buying a license can receive a free microchip for identifying their dog.
Officials estimate that there are 51,500 unlicensed canines in the unincorporated area and the five cities that with the county form the animal services joint powers group.
Executive Director Annette Patton said she isn't sure how many dog licenses will be purchased next month because the amnesty program is a first for the agency. She is shooting for 1,000 to 2,000 license sales as a way to improve annual revenue. People with dog licenses tend to renew them.
Patton noted that 8,000 dog licenses were issued during a two-month amnesty program in San Jose.
About half of the dog owners in Stanislaus County's unincorporated area have licenses, but the compliance rate is only about 30 percent in Modesto. Waterford and Hughson have the best compliance at 68 percent and 58 percent, respectively.
According to a staff report, the animal services agency could generate anywhere from $31,000 to $123,000 from issuing licenses during the program. Thursday, the joint powers board gave Patton authority to extend the program for a month if she chooses.
California law requires dog owners to obtain a license when the animal reaches 5 months of age, or within 30 days of taking ownership or bringing an unlicensed dog into the county. The Stanislaus agency charges a $12 license fee for spayed or neutered dogs. The annual licenses may be purchased for one to three years.
The fee for an unaltered dog is $150, but officials recommend those owners purchase a Stanislaus County Alternative to Euthanasia Voucher costing $140, or $72 with proof of low-income status. The purchase includes a rabies vaccination, dog license, microchip identification, and a voucher to have the dog spayed or neutered by a veterinarian.
Patton said the amnesty program is offered to owners who have not had a license and those who are late on renewing. A license gives the owner better chances of recovering a lost dog.
About half of the dogs that are brought to the animal shelter with a license tag on the collar are reunited with their owners, the agency says.
The Stanislaus Animal Services Agency notifies owners when someone who finds a lost dog with a license tag contacts the agency.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.
HOW IT WORKS
Residents of Modesto, the county unincorporated area, Ceres, Patterson, Waterford and Hughson can purchase a dog license during the amnesty program, Jan. 1-31, at the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency, 3647 Cornucopia Way, Modesto.
The fee is $12 for altered ($6 for seniors); $150 for unaltered ($75 for seniors).
Hours are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (209) 558-7387.