SF dog licensing among lowest in Bay Area 

Dog owners shirking their responsibility to license their pets are costing The City hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
San Francisco Animal Care and Control estimates there are as many as 150,000 dogs living in San Francisco, yet only about 15,000 are licensed with The City. The 10 percent compliance rate is among the lowest in the Bay Area, said Rebecca Katz, interim director for the department.

And at a time when The City is facing a more than $500 million budget shortfall, every penny counts. The agency, which is being asked to cut as much as 20 percent from its $3 million budget, is stepping up efforts to get those unlicensed dogs registered and collect those fees. The department has launched an education campaign dubbed “To Be a Hero.”

“That’s how we see it,” Katz said. “Licensing your dog can help so many animals in our operation.”

Dog licenses are the No. 1 source of revenue for the department. In 2007-08, Animal Care and Control collected more than $260,000 from dog licenses. A license for a neutered or spayed dog is $15 a year and for non-altered dogs it is $28 annually.

“It’s a major source of revenue for this department, which is how we are able to help other animals — cats, dogs, wildlife,” Katz said.

It’s especially important now when shelters are facing a 15 percent increase in the number of pets being dropped off by owners who can no longer care for them, Katz said.

It’s not just about collecting money. In order to renew a dog license, owners must prove their dog’s rabies vaccination is current. Also, if a licensed dog gets lost, it’s easier to reunite the pet with the owner, Katz said.

As part of the campaign, department officials will go door-to-door asking dog owners to license their pets. Also, they plan to hold registration drives at local pet stores, and soon they want to make it easy to get a dog license online, Katz said.

An education campaign would help because a big part of the problem is that many dog owners don’t realize they need to renew their licenses every year, said Sally Stephens, chair of San Francisco Dog Owner’s Group, a nonprofit dog group.

“We always support licensing your dog,” Stephens said. “It’s a necessary thing, if for no other reason that people who don’t like dogs use it as a reason to argue dog owners are irresponsible.”

Dogs in The City

There are between 120,000 and 150,000 canines in S.F.

- 15,000 are licensed.

- It costs $15 to register neutered or spayed dogs, and $28 for dogs that are not neutered or spayed.

- Dog licenses bring $260,000 in revenue to The City.

Source: S.F. Animal Care and Control

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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