Royal OakMay 24, 2013
City to perform dog census in July
By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer
ROYAL OAK — Beginning in July, census workers employed by the city will be going door to door to account for and ensure every pet dog in the city is licensed.
The City Commission voted 6-0 to approve the census at the May 20 meeting. Commissioner Jim Rasor was absent. The commission also approved rate increases for purchasing dog licenses, which will go into effect in July, and an amnesty period throughout June for dog owners delinquent on renewing their licenses. A dog is considered delinquent if a license is not renewed within 45 days of the expiration date, according to the City Clerk’s Office.
The amnesty period and delayed effective date for the rate hikes are an attempt to incentivize residents to have their dogs vaccinated and licensed before the census begins.
Census workers will knock on doors, check for a dog and ask if the dog is licensed, according to the approved resolution. If the dog is not licensed, the owner will have 14 days to have the dog vaccinated for rabies and purchase a dog license.
If the owner still does not comply, the city’s animal control officer is authorized to issue a misdemeanor ticket for harboring an unlicensed animal.
City Attorney Dave Gillam said the maximum fine for the charge is $500, but it is up to the judge’s discretion. City Manager Don Johnson said the city will hire two census workers at $10 per hour to do the job.
According to the city, there are about 23,000 pet dogs in Royal Oak, based on the 2010 census. Yet, the city clerk has given out only about 3,500 active dog licenses.
“It was found that the majority of dog bites in the city involved unlicensed dogs,” said Sean Doody, a graduate management intern in the City Manager’s Office, who introduced the resolution to the commission.
The high number of unlicensed dogs, Doody said, has forced dog-bite victims to get possibly unnecessary rabies shots because it is unknown if the dog is vaccinated.
“If an unlicensed dog bites somebody, the victim has to have a pretty painful rabies shot,” Doody said. “We know that if a dog bite is involved with a licensed dog, they don’t have to get their shots.”
The new rates, Doody said, are comparable to what Oakland County charges for dog licenses in communities its animal control officers oversee.
Current rates for spayed or neutered dogs are $7 for one-year shots, $12 for two-year shots and $18 for three-year shots.
For non-spayed or non-neutered dogs, the rates are $10 for one-year shots, $18 for two-year shots and $27 for three-year shots.
For spayed or neutered dogs, the new rates will be $7 for one-year shots, $14 for two-year shots and $20 for three-year shots.
For non-spayed or non-neutered dogs, the fees will be $14 for one-year shots, $28 for two-year shots and $40 for three-year shots.
The administration said the city will be putting on a public-awareness campaign in June about the amnesty period, rate increases and the upcoming census.
While she still voted for the resolution, Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Capello expressed concerns with the way in which the city was going about incentivizing residents to comply with the law.
“It feels very unfriendly to our residents and to dog owners,” Capello said.
She said the city should first use social media and other avenues to get the message to residents about the importance of getting your dog licensed.
“The issue I have is that we are starting out with the club right away,” she said. “It feels like something that we could have taken a more informative approach to begin with and then come back with the census once people are given a chance to comply on their own free will.”
Doody argued that residents will have six weeks to comply on their own.
Fees established for dangerous, potentially dangerous dogs
As part of the same resolution, the City Commission also established at the May 20 meeting a hiked license fee effective immediately for owners of dogs that the city deems dangerous or potentially dangerous after an incident.
The city will charge $200 for a dog owner to register a dog deemed dangerous or potentially dangerous. Also, if the city’s animal control officer has to apprehend a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog until the owner is in compliance, the city will now charge a $200 confiscation fee, plus boarding rates.
The hiked fees are part of an amendment to the city’s dog ordinance that went into effect earlier in May. In the amendment, the city defined how to categorize dogs as dangerous or potentially dangerous, based on the dog’s actions. Owners of dogs that fall into either category will have to follow certain steps in order to keep their pet. Additionally, owners of dogs deemed dangerous will have to purchase a $1 million insurance bond.