The value of licensing dogs |

The value of licensing dogs

I recently proposed an amendment to our existing Animal Control Resolution, which appears to have created some controversy, particularly for those in our valuable agricultural community. I would like to address some of those concerns.

There already exist controls on barking dogs and running-at-large and vicious animals in our current resolution, and issues of vaccination, quarantine and ownership of a dangerous dog already exist in state law. We are simply clarifying and cleaning up some language.

However, what seems to be causing the most concern is the proposed issue of licensing dogs.

As Garfield County continues to grow, we create living areas that are more densely populated. Battlement Mesa, Silt Mesa, the Four Mile area, Spring Valley and many others are requiring the need for enforcement issues which were not a concern in the past. As more people move into Garfield County they bring more public safety matters such as animal issues.

Registration is not only to ensure that pet owners are complying with state vaccination laws (for obvious public safety and health reasons), but also to provide a quicker return to the owner of a dog that we would otherwise have to impound. A $10 registration that will have your dog returned is much better than $20 per day for impoundment while wondering where your pet is.

Also, the revenue generated from licensing will help offset the cost of the Animal Control Program. As a taxpayer, I appreciate the idea of reducing the amount of tax dollars supporting a program.

On the other hand, when we draft this new resolution, we have to take into consideration a very important segment of our community: the agricultural community.

In agriculture, dogs are not necessarily pets, but rather working animals. They guard sheep flocks and herd cattle. They are important tools for the people who rely on this industry as their livelihood.

Without a guard dog protecting a flock of sheep, a coyote, bear or mountain lion could decimate a herd and cause the rancher to lose his way of life.

We need to recognize the differences between pet animals and working dogs, and not unnecessarily infringe on the agricultural community.

Therefore, I would propose that a legitimate agricultural working dog be exempt from the licensing requirement. This solution will still provide for my responsibilities for public safety and allow the agricultural community the freedom to work their dogs.

Finally, I strongly suggest that if you have a concern about this issue to either call me or come to the public meeting on this topic at 10:15 a.m. Monday, June 14, at the Board of County Commissioners regular meeting.

Lou Vallario is Garfield County sheriff.

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