Friday, November 12, 2010

Bolton Adjusts to New Dog Licensing Duties

For more than ninety years, the state’s Department of Agriculture has been the agency responsible for licensing dogs and collecting fees, which it shared with counties and municipalities.

But as of January first, those duties will devolve to localities, and towns like Bolton are hustling to adjust to their new responsibilities.

According to Agriculture commissioner Patrick Hooker, the department has provided municipalities with a “Municipal Dog Licensing Toolkit,” which includes a model local law, sample licensing forms, lists of vendors for databases and dog tags, a copy of the new law, and documents outlining how the new law will affect dog owners, animal shelters and the Animal Population Control Fund.

In exchange for assuming responsibility for licensing dogs, municipalities will keep all fees collected, which “will nearly double their revenue from dog license fees,” said Commissioner Hooker.

“Administering the new system, including certifying that dogs have received rabies shots, will be time consuming, and it was helpful when the state was responsible, but we’ll adjust,” said Bolton Town Clerk Pat Steele.

While Bolton has had a dog ordinance on the books since 1978, its town board is now considering adopting a new law, one drafted by its attorney, Mike Muller, but based on the model supplied by New York State.

At a public hearing in November, resident Robert Weisenfeld commented that the clause requiring owners to exercise “full control” over their animals was too vague; he urged the board to revise the text to specify that dogs be leashed or muzzled.

Under the proposed law, the fee for licensing a dog will range from $5 to $13, depending upon whether the dog has been spayed or neutered.

Bolton residents will receive new dog tags from the town when current licenses expire, said Steele.

Fines for allowing dogs to become nuisances range could range from $50 to $300.

According to Commissioner Hooker, delegating dog licensing responsibilities to localities will save the state more than $325,000 a year.

“At a time when government is actively searching for cost savings and limiting services to those that protect public health and safety, it is a no-brainer for the State to get out of the dog licensing business,” Hooker said.

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