MODESTO — Animal advocates said they agreed with a county effort to put more pressure on dog owners to license and vaccinate their pets.
On Tuesday, Stanislaus County supervisors unanimously approved an updated ordinance with administrative penalties for owners who neglect to purchase dog licenses or get rabies shots for their canines. The ordinance will go into effect Nov. 14 in the county unincorporated areas and Ceres. Other member cities of the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency have approved the administrative citation process or soon will consider it.
The joint powers agency includes the county, Modesto, Ceres, Patterson, Hughson and Waterford. Modesto has yet to adopt the ordinance but has the ability to issue citations.
I think the county is doing everything (it) can to make sure Stanislaus County has responsible pet owners, said Lyndi Love-Haning of the Wags and Whiskers Rescue in Modesto. I hope it makes people who dont have an animal think about the responsibility that comes with an animal. They can see what it takes before puppy shopping on impulse.
Officials said the citations will replace courtesy notices that are issued to unlicensed owners when animal service officers canvass neighborhoods. Those who are cited will be given 30 days to obtain a license and rabies vaccination for their pet or the penalty will be $100 per violation. Penalties will range up to $500 for repeat violations.
Agency staff can hand-deliver the citations, post them on the front door of homes or mail them to owners. In the past, some owners have avoided dog-license requirements by not answering the door when animal service officers knock, said Annette Patton, director of the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency.
County Supervisor Bill OBrien stressed the goal is not to increase revenue but to encourage responsible pet ownership. OBrien was concerned that people with financial hardship will need more than 30 days when faced with buying a $150 license for an unaltered pet. The license fees are $12 for dogs that are spayed or neutered.
Patton said the agency can grant a time extension in certain cases.
Not everyone agreed that stronger enforcement will have the desired effect. In an online comment to a story in The Bee on Monday, Modesto resident Jolynn Mancini Wilder suggested it may cause penniless dog owners to abandon their pets, adding to the stray animal population.
Hallie Robinson of Modesto was pleased that the ordinance outlaws cat dumping. Her dispute last year with an admitted cat trapper who abandoned dozens of cats near Dry Creek led to that section of the ordinance.
The new rules require a person catching a stray cat to return it to the owner or take it to the animal shelter. Violators may be fined up to $300.
Too much of it goes on, Robinson said. If you dump them somewhere else, you are leaving the animals to starve to death.
The rules adopted Tuesday are an update to a model ordinance for the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency. It cleans up legal language and prohibits prolonged howling or barking.
Love-Haning said there are options for dog owners who may be struggling financially. She noted that some veterinary clinics offer low-cost or free vaccinations for low-income owners from time to time.
For information about dog licenses, go to www.stancounty.com/animalservices/ or call (209) 558-7387.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.