Licensing Now Easier for Dog Owners

Photo by Jody Tiongco.
The city’s former rules discouraged some pet owners from licensing, which was tied to the calendar year. It forced some pet owners to over-vaccinate their dogs to keep a current license. Photos by Jody Tiongco

Owners of the 7,375 dogs currently on the record books in Laguna Beach should be overjoyed to learn that they will soon be able to obtain a 12-month license for their pets year around, instead of ones previously issued that coincided only with the calendar year.

A change approved Tuesday should also provide an enticement to scofflaw pet owners, who have refused to obtain the $24 license because their pooch’s rabies vaccination date fails to coincide with the city’s license renewal date, previously set at Jan. 1. As a consequence, otherwise responsible pet owners end up with unlicensed dogs that prefer to risk a $10 fine than their dog’s health.

The purpose of licensing local canines is primarily a public safety measure to ensure that dogs have up-to-date rabies vaccinations, said Jim Beres, the police department’s civilian supervisor. Licensing also helps restore lost pets to their owners, he said.

Local pet owners can more easily license their pets thanks to a change adopted this week by city council.
Local pet owners can more easily license their pets thanks to a change adopted this week by city council.

The catch is that until now the licensing system in Laguna Beach has been anchored to a January renewal date, regardless of when your dog received his last rabies shot.

Since dogs routinely get their first rabies shot at four months and booster shots on an annual or tri-annual basis thereafter, only dogs born in September would have a vaccination timeline in sync with the city’s licensing schedule.

So residents whose pups did not start getting their vaccinations in January and who wanted to keep their pet’s license current had to subject them to vaccinations before they were due.

“I think it is about time,” said Dr. Gary Gauthier of Arch Beach Veterinary clinic, when he learned of the new timetable approved this week. He said he’s been hounding the city to change their practice since 1996. It will serve pets and owners very well, he said, with pets no longer being over-vaccinated and owners able to license their pets at their convenience.

“It’s about time,” echoed Cindy Waldman, president of Friends of Laguna Beach Dog Park, adding that the move “should promote licensing.”

Beres said that while the city doesn’t have any figures on how many residents have eschewed licensing their dogs to avoid over vaccination, animal service officers are certainly aware that it has been a recurring scenario. The new system, which will allow owners to get an annual license concurrent with the date of their rabies certificate, “is a much more humane and effective way of doing it,” he said.

Irvine, Mission Viejo and San Clemente already have year-round licensing, Beres said. The switch will finally “bring Laguna Beach back into line with the rest of the country,” said Gauthier.

The biggest roadblock to the long-awaited change was updating an ancient computer system, which dated back to 1982, said Beres. A second hurdle was to update an ordinance, which the City Council approved Tuesday. Final approval is expected Feb. 3.

“Now we have all of the pieces of the puzzle in place,” said Beres, adding that the new system should be in operation by March 1.

What’s more, hold onto your hats, Beres said the city hopes to offer on-line license renewal later this year.

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