BOC chair seeks input on licensing of animals

COVINGTON -- County commissioners are mulling over an ordinance that would require the licensing of dogs and cats.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Kathy Morgan came to the Covington City Council's Monday night work session to request input from the council before the BOC votes on the issue. Morgan said she would be soliciting input from other municipal leaders and the public as well.

Under consideration is an ordinance that would require owners of all dogs and cats that are 6 months or older to apply for a licensing tag and supply proof that the animal has been vaccinated against rabies. Many dogs being picked up by Animal Control have not had a rabies shot, she said.

Licensing would create a central record of all vaccinated dogs and cats in Newton County and would help facilitate the return of lost dogs and cats. The fee for spayed or neutered animals would be $10, and $25 for animals that are unaltered.

"Those people that want to break the law are going to break the law regardless. But I do think the average citizen will do this," Morgan said.

Licensing would take place at Animal Control and at events throughout the year, she said. City Manager Steve Horton suggested offering licensing and vaccinations all in one place.

"I think the more convenient it is, the more receptive people will be," he said.

The city of Porterdale already has a licensing requirement for dogs and cats at a fee of $5 per animal, and Morgan said city officials have indicated they don't want to raise that fee and cause a hardship on pet owners.

"I'm not for registering my animals, but if I have to, I'd rather go to my vet," said Councilman Keith Dalton. Morgan said it may be an option to work with local vets to provide that service.

The BOC will discuss the matter at its Nov. 2 meeting, but Morgan said she doubted a vote will happen that night. Based on an average of 2.5 animals per home, Morgan estimated there are more than 100,000 pets in Newton County.