Hampton wants to know how many dogs in town

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Hampton town board members Michael Pietryka and Tamme Taran check over a proposed subdivision plan at the board’s Jan. 19 meeting. Much of the board’s time was spent discussing a proposed dog enumeration and updates to the town law covering dog ownership. (Photo by EJ Conzola II)

The Town of Hampton will conduct a count of its canine population to both get a better handle on the number of dogs in the community and to encourage dog owners to ensure their pets are properly vaccinated against rabies.

The town board voted at its Jan. 19 meeting to authorize dog control officer Richard Cole to conduct a dog “enumeration” by sending a mailing to all households in the community. The mailing will remind dog owners that state law requires them to register their animals annually – a requirement many in the community do not meet – and ask them to inform the town about the dogs they have, Cole said.

Those without dogs and those who have already registered their pets will not have to respond to the mailing, supervisor David O’Brien noted.

Board member Donald Sady likened the enumeration mailing to a speed limit sign. Those who are predisposed to obey the law will respond to it, those who aren’t simply will not, he said.

“There will be a lot of people who will positively respond to it,” Cole said.

The vote came after Cole initially raised questions about the town’s existing dog ordinance, telling the board that the law is unclear about when some dog owners are required to register their animals. The law currently mandates that puppies be registered within 60 days of when they reach four months of age but has no deadline for those who adopt adult dogs, he said.

Board member Tamme Taran also noted that the law differentiates between neutered and non-neutered animals, but that many veterinarians won’t neuter a puppy until it is at least six months old.

Confusion created by the ambiguity of the law has led some people to let their dogs go unregistered, Cole said. But ignorance of the annual registration requirement and – for some – a feeling that the law is simply a way for government to pull more money out of people’s pockets are probably more the reason that people don’t register their pets, he said.

The cost of registering an adult dog is $12. The fine for failing to register starts at $50, O’Brien noted.

In addition to giving the town more information about who owns dogs – information that can be important in investigating dog-related complaints – the enumeration letter will remind dog owners that they must have their pets vaccinated against the rabies virus, O’Brien said.

“There is a public health aspect to it,” Cole said.

Board member Andrea Kugler suggested the town host a low-cost clinic to help promote vaccinations, but O’Brien said the cost to the town cold be prohibitive – even if a veterinarian could be found to conduct the clinic. He also noted that Washington County had previously held a clinic in the town, but that a low turnout had not made the event cost-effective.

The county does hold clinics in neighboring towns, he added.