Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It all begins with the license

A few years ago I wrote an article in response to people frustrated over what they believed were inefficiencies with our Animal Control department. The gist of the article was that the monies generated by dog licenses are monies that can be spent making Animal Control what we all want it to be, and if we want a responsive, efficient department we should all begin by making sure our dogs are licensed.

I thought again about that article as I listened to the presentation Bill Bruce, Director of Animal Services and Bylaws of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, gave to the Animal Control Commission in Bakersfield on June 10. In his city of 1.1 million people, 91 percent of all dogs are licensed, creating the lynchpin of a highly effective program that benefits pets and pet owners.

His program, which contained far too much information for a column as short as this, uses licensing fees to expand their offerings into a number of activities including a curriculum-based education series for kids, immediate home returns for lost pets with no stop at the shelter along the way, money for training and behavior programs for wayward dogs (and their owners), and, though the recent licensing of cats, a free spay/neuter program for those who cannot afford the standard fee. And they managed to euthanize fewer than 450 dogs and cats in 2008 (and no, I didn’t drop any zeros).

All accomplished without breed specific bans, mandatory spay/neuter laws or even limits on the number of pets an individual may own.

When all is said and done, I’m left with one question: Is this a place where we can start? Are the tenets of this program a place where the breeder, the rescuer and the family down the street can finally come together and work towards the one goal everyone would like to see --- the reduction of homeless pets in Kern County?

Maybe. I’m hoping that before the afterglow has burned down to an ember, the people attending that presentation will begin spreading the word and making plans for a real, substantive push to get a program along these lines going. Lives depend on it.

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