ONE of the many responsibilities of dog ownership requires that the dog have a dog license.
It is a bylaw in every municipality in pretty much every major metropolitan area in North America.
The No. 1 reason that dogs are required to be licensed is that it allows the local municipality to keep track of your dog, sort of like Big Brother looking out for you.
If your dog was to ever go missing the local shelter would have the dog's information on file which would, in theory, allow the dog and owner to reunite that much sooner if the dog is picked up by the shelter while out on the loose.
Dogs get separated from their owners or their home for many reasons. A gate to a backyard may not have been closed properly, a front door left open while groceries brought in the house, the dog may have been spooked while out on a walk or simple neglect by a careless owner allowing the dog to wander through the neighborhood unattended.
In any case, a dog that is picked up for being at large without a license is subject to a fairly hefty fine. But a dog license should not be the only form of identification for your dog.
ID tags purchased at local pet stores can be attached to a dog's collar, stating the dog's name and the phone number of the owner. These are by far the most popular and very helpful if a dog ever gets lost as it displays immediate contact information which allows the dog to hopefully be reunited with the owner - by a good samaritan who has found the dog - without having to go through the local shelter. This can be an unexpected blessing because after having your dog escape from the yard or run off after being spooked on a walk, having to fork out a "dog at large" fine to get him or her back from the shelter can be a costly lesson.
Tattoos, usually placed within a dog's ear during their spay or neuter, also help identify a dog. The tattoo is recorded along with the owner's information at the veterinarian clinic that did the spay/neuter operation. The bonus of a tattoo is that if your dog was to ever go missing without its collar it would still be able to be identified and united with its owner once the information is received from the veterinary clinic. If the dog changes owner the information at the clinic should be updated to ensure a speedy return to the rightful owner.
Microchips are a popular form of identification as they cannot fade like tattoos can, and they can't be lost like ID tags on a collar can. Micro chips are a small chip - about the size of a grain of rice - that contains the dog's information.
It is implanted just below the dog's skin usually between the shoulder blades and is undetectable to the touch. A scanner is used to read the microchip. The only down side to this method of identification is that not all shelters carry scanners, but most vet clinics do.
But to be clear: a tattoo or microchip are additional forms of identification.
They don't get you out of the fine if you do not have a proper licence.
Regardless of whether you find these other forms of identification more valuable or not, the simple facts about whether you should or shouldn't license your dog are this: fines for not licensing your dog are more than $100 - the licence itself is considerably less per year.
Money collected from dog licenses helps to maintain the many dog parks and designated dog trails on the North Shore.
It also assists in the upkeep of the local animal shelters that house dogs that are lost or ones that are looking for new homes.
Maintaining a proper facility that cares for dogs who are "between owners" is a costly venture.
Think about that if you are reconsidering the decision to purchase a dog license this year.