City of Janesville 2014 pet licensing now open

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Neil Johnson
Wednesday, December 25, 2013

JANESVILLE—There is a dog in Janesville named Beef Juice. He's a pit bull.

There's also a Janesville Basset Hound named Spicey Salsa. Anybody know “Oliver Dickens,” the Jack Russell terrier? How about “Chupa Cabra” the Chihuahua?

As for Janesville cats, there's the likely chubby “The Bean,” the probable petite kitty “Wee-Teak” and, we're guessing, one decidedly regal and astute feline who goes by the name “Lord Tennison.”

How do we know this? They're all in a database of pet dogs and cats officially registered and licensed in the city of Janesville—tags and all.

Pet licensing and registration for 2014 is open now and runs through March 31. It costs $13 for non-neutered or non-spayed animals and $8 for spayed or neutered animals. It's a requirement for all pet owners in the city who have dogs or cats at least five months old. A valid rabies vaccination is required for a license.

“Beef Juice” the dog and “Wee-Teak” the cat are among thousands of local pets whose owners have gotten them licensed and registered with the city.  

Yet far from every pet is registered in Janesville. In 2012, the last full year of data for pet registration, the city of Janesville issued 5,092 dog licenses and 1,149 cat licenses.

That number pales in comparison to the likely number of unlicensed household pets owned by Janesville families.

The city of Janesville does not have estimates of how many cats and dogs overall—both licensed and unlicensed—are kept as pets in the city. But based on the number of households in Janesville and average pet ownership data from the American Veterinary Medical Association, there could be 9,000 to as many as 15,000 pet dogs in Janesville. The same calculations show there could be 7,800 to 16,500 pet cats in the city.

Countywide, estimates show that there are about 40,000 pets in the county. That estimate is based on countywide vaccination rates for dogs and cats, said Tim Banwell, Environmental Health Director with the Rock County Health Department.

Banwell said county data show only about half of those animals are ever vaccinated for rabies or other common pet illnesses. And only one quarter of pets in Rock County—10,000 dogs and cats overall—are ever registered with municipal tags.

Why don't people license their pets? Is it the hassle? The cost? Reasons for lack of registered pets are myriad, said Banwell and Janesville Deputy Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek.   

“We've tried to make it as easy as possible for water bills. We stuff an insert to do it by mail,” Godek said.

People can also print forms off the city's website and fill them out to register.

“There's probably some people who just don't know they have to do it,” Godek said.

Perhaps the main reason people don't register their pets: They must show proof the animal is current on a rabies vaccination. While an $8 to $13 municipal license may or may not be cost-prohibitive, vaccination costs through a veterinarian could be a financial hurdle for some, Banwell said.

Banwell said it can cost $100 for a full vaccination cocktail for a pet and more for a full pet checkup linked with vaccinations, but he said some veterinarians will give a rabies-only vaccination for about $20. Rock County also has started a rabies vaccination program that runs one day in the spring and costs about $10, Banwell said.

So who cares if pets are licensed or not? Taxpayers should. The city estimates it costs the city over $90,000 a year for the Rock County Humane Society to deal with animals that wind up at the Janesville shelter.

The higher percentage of dogs and cats that aren't registered or licensed, the less likely it is that the pets that end up at the shelter can be traced back to their original owners.

The burden on city taxpayers would be reduced if animal owners would comply with licensing requirements, city officials say.

Godek said pet licensing and registration is one of the most effective ways to find a lost pet. Every dog and cat licensed goes into a city database with its name and breed and the owner's contact information.

“Say you lose your dog and it gets picked up at the humane society. It has a tag, and we can query the database. You've got a phone number and your dog on record,” Godek said. “It works well. We get phone calls all the time, not just from the humane society so much, but from neighbors, too.”

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