It’s hard to believe the Schenectady City Council is still not committing to the dog census that City Clerk Chuck Thorne has been pushing and Mayor Gary McCarthy is supporting. If the city is to have a serious animal control effort, to get most of the dogs living in its environs licensed and protect the public, this is an essential first step.
The city clearly has a dog problem. Each year serious injuries are inflicted on humans and other animals by unlicensed canines.
Without a license it’s tough for officials to know who the dog’s owner is, especially if it is loose, and to hold him responsible. It’s also tough to know whether the dog has been vaccinated against rabies, which is why 40 or so people annually must get a precautionary series of painful and expensive rabies shots after being bitten.
While the council has sat back, Thorne has admirably acted on his own. This summer he undertook a major outreach to encourage responsible pet ownership and licensing, setting up booths at festivals, fairs and other community events. And the effort was quite successful, with a 50 percent increase in the number of licensed dogs. But that only brings the total to 2,200, and Thorne estimates there are another 10,000 unlicensed ones out there.
Thorne’s proposal is simple, and should be effective and affordable. He’d hire three part-time enumerators who would go door to door in search of unlicensed dogs, talking to owners and neighbors, listening for barks in response to a knock or a doorbell.
And more than enough money would be raised from license fees ($13.50 for neutered dogs and $20.50 for unneutered) and subsequent fines for noncompliance to cover the $22,000 cost of the census. The rest could go for dog control.
If the council is willing to accept the frightening attacks, bites and rabies threat that go with having the great majority of dogs in the city unlicensed, then it will continue to do nothing. If it wants to crack down on the scofflaws who own these animals, and make the city safer, it will approve the census.