Calvert to reduce pet license fees in second annual amnesty week

By Meghan Russell
The Calvert Recorder
Wednesday, December 8, 2010; 9:00 PM

The Tri-County Animal Shelter in Hughesville is full, and the last thing Calvert animal control officers say they want to do is pick up a pet mistaken for a stray and leave it at the shelter, where it could be euthanized.

So animal control officials are preparing for their second annual pet-license amnesty week, with the goal of reducing the number of unlicensed pets.

At its Nov. 23 meeting, the Calvert County Board of Commissioners again granted the unit permission to offer a discount on pet licensing fees for one week this month.

The usual fee for a pet license is $7 for pets that are spayed or neutered pets and $20 for those that are not. From Dec. 20 to 23, pet owners can but licenses for $3 for spayed and neutered pets and $10 for those that aren't.

"We're mostly trying to get more animals licensed to keep them from going to the shelter," Calvert Animal Control Supervisor Craig Dichter said. "They'll get a tag number, and that stays in our registry, so if an animal wanders into a neighbor's yard and they call us, we can look up the number. It reduces the stress on the animal, the owner and everything at the shelter, which is full right now. Our biggest goal is to try and do this as quickly as possible."

Animal control officials tried the amnesty week for the first time last December. The effort was a success, Dichter said.

"A lot of people were really happy with it," he said. "Both sides really enjoyed that one-on-one conversation with animal control officers."

The program drew 170 county residents last year, which Dichter called "a really good turnout" and which brought in about $600 to the general county fund.

The program, he said, brought more residents into compliance with the county's animal control ordinance, which says that all cats and dogs must be licensed and that the licenses must be bought annually. Amnesty week also helps achieve a more accurate record of county animals, of which those without owners can be divided among five different animal welfare organizations in Calvert alone.

"Just think, 170 animals were licensed as a result of this," Commissioner Susan Shaw (R-Huntingtown) said at the Nov. 23 meeting. "People should realize this reduces the likelihood of their pet being euthanized if their pet gets loose and gets picked up by animal control."

Licenses can be paid for with cash or check at the Calvert County Sheriff's Office between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Licenses can also be obtained at other locations, including the North Beach, Prince Frederick and Solomons volunteer fire departments.

"So if you can't make it during the day, we'll have officers out at those evening hours," Dichter said.

Dichter said pet owners should not plan on taking their cats and dogs when getting licenses. Animal control needs to see only current rabies certification.

"We just need to see the paperwork, not the pets," Dichter said.

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