MODESTO — Stanislaus County officials could put more bite into an ordinance to persuade people to license their dogs and get them vaccinated against rabies.
This morning, the Board of Supervisors will consider adding administrative citations to the model ordinance for the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency, a joint powers group that includes the county, Modesto, Ceres, Patterson, Hughson and Waterford. The citations would give dog owners 30 days to license and vaccinate their pets to avoid penalties of $100 for a first violation, $200 for a second and $500 for a third.
Animal control officers would not need to contact pet owners to issue citations. The tickets could be hand-delivered, posted on the door or sent to owners by certified mail.
The citations would replace courtesy notices that are issued to owners of unlicensed dogs when neighborhoods are canvassed by Animal Services staff. If the new ordinance is approved, it would take effect in the county unincorporated area and Ceres starting in mid-November. Patterson and Hughson have approved the new ordinance and Waterford will consider it next month, said Annette Patton, executive director of the agency.
Modesto and Waterford already have the ability to issue administrative citations. The proposed update also would make cat-dumping illegal and clean up language in the model ordinance that was created after the joint powers authority was formed in 2009.
Patton said the agency did not see good compliance after issuing more than 3,000 courtesy notices in 2012. The notices are issued when staff is unable to make personal contact with the pet owner, and they instruct owners to correct violations within 30 days, but there is no monetary penalty for ignoring the notice.
The courtesy notices dont drive owners to purchase dog licenses, Patton said. With the new ordinance, we are not including penalties unless you ignore the citation for 30 days.
Those cited can correct the violations without paying penalties by purchasing a dog license, getting the animal vaccinated and providing a vaccination certificate signed by a veterinarian. Unlicensed dogs are often discovered when canvass teams are sent to neighborhoods to inform residents about the importance of dog licenses and rabies vaccination, Patton said.
A staff report found administrative citations boosted revenue and compliance by about 300 percent for the city of Fremont in the Bay Area. Citations are used by other cities and counties in California.
The citation process is expected to generate $50,000 in revenue for the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency.
Modesto resident Debbie Edmondson said she promptly licensed two pit bull dogs after a city animal service officer informed her about the administrative penalties a month ago. It was all going to add up to about $1,000, so I got it done, the pet owner said.
Edmondson said she agreed with the new ordinance as long as vaccinations and licenses remain affordable. The Stanislaus Animal Services Agency waived late fees and penalties to encourage dog licensing during a two-month amnesty program early this year.
The proposed ordinance also would make it illegal to abandon a cat that has an owner. That ordinance section grew from controversy sparked by complaints last year against two cat trappers in Modesto. One of the men acknowledged that he trapped cats that came onto his property and then released them near Dry Creek.
Anyone who catches a stray cat and knows who owns it is required to return the animal to the owner. Otherwise, he or she must take the animal to the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency shelter on Cornucopia Way, where owners can reclaim lost pets. Violations may result in a $300 fine.
The Modesto City Council adopted tougher stray-animal rules in March.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.