Schenectady County

City officials to canvass Schenectady for unlicensed dogs, fine owners

Dog owners, get your licenses: animal control is coming.

Dog owners, get your licenses: animal control is coming.

Starting June 30, a group of seasonal workers will fan out through the neighborhoods of Schenectady, ringing doorbells and listening for the telltale signs of a dog.

If they see a leash, notice a dog bowl, or hear barking, they will leave a door hanger officially notifying the owner that their dog has been reported.

At City Hall, those addresses will be cross-checked with the city’s licensing registry. Those who are not on the list will have to get their dog licensed within 21 days.

In those first three weeks, they will have to pay a $10 fee plus the licensing fee.

But if they don’t go to City Hall, animal control officers will knock on their door — and issue them a $250 ticket.

The goal is to get every dog in the city vaccinated against rabies. Owners must have proof of the vaccination to get the license, which costs $13.50 for dogs that are spayed or neutered, and $20.50 for dogs that are not.

City Clerk Chuck Thorne has been pushing for greater dog enforcement for years, particularly after several bad dog attacks left city residents scarred.

Last year, a smaller effort in the summer garnered 800 additional dog licenses, he said.

“That’s a 25 percent increase,” he said.

Still, it’s a drop in the bucket: the city has just 2,300 licensed dogs.

“The American Veterinary Association’s online ‘Pet Calculator’ estimates there are more than 15,000 dogs in the city of Schenectady,” Thorne said. “I don’t have any doubt.”

He said he checked the pet calculator estimates by counting the dogs who lived within 200 feet of his house. There were 11 — and only three of them were registered.

He’s hoping for a bigger number of licenses this year. He will have 12 dog enumerators working 20 hours a week for six weeks.

All of them will be 18-year-olds working through the county’s youth employment program. They’ll walk streets in pairs, and police will know where they’re working each day.

But the public will not.

“We’re going to do it on a lottery system. No one’s going to know where we are,” Thorne said. “I don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, they won’t get to me, I don’t have to worry about it.’ ”

Every neighborhood in the city is fair game, he added.

“It’s very much a misconception that the unlicensed dogs are only in Hamilton Hill or only pit bulls,” he said.

So far, about 30 to 50 percent of the dog owners who have been found through the program did not vaccinate their dogs against rabies, he said.

Others claimed they didn’t know they had to get a license, even though it’s been a state law for about a century, Thorne said.

So he’s putting up posters and license applications in veterinary offices this summer. He’s also highlighting the $10 fee if dog owners get caught by the enumerators.

“Hopefully that $10 motivates people to come in before I knock on their door,” he said.

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