Are your dog's licensing papers current?

The uniformed fellow knocking on your door wants to see your papers. More precisely, he wants to see Fido's papers.

Scot Evans is Jackson County Animal Care and Control Center's new compliance officer. For the past four months, Evans has gone door-to-door to ensure that dog owners are in compliance with state laws that require pooches to be vaccinated against rabies and licensed with the county.

"Some people are confused about the laws," said Evans.

Evans was hired to educate owners about the costs and requirements of dog licensing and to cite those who are not in compliance with state law, said Colleen Macuk, the shelter's program director.

"Because people are not voluntarily coming in to license their dogs, we are having to go out and enforce the state law," Macuk said.

All dogs in Jackson County over the age of 6 months or who have a full set of canine teeth are required to be licensed, she said. The annual license fee for a spayed or neutered dog is $20. (There is a break for families with multiple dogs.) Non-neutered or nonspayed dogs cost $30. The penalty for having an unlicensed dog is $50. Accrued fines for failing to respond to citations can rise as high as $600, said Macuk.

"The citation is like a fix-it ticket," said Macuk. "If they pay, it's over and the dog is licensed."

But if owners ignore the citation, the matter can go to a hearing during which large fines are often imposed — and the dog can end up in the custody of the shelter, she said.

"We certainly don't want to see that happen," Macuk said.

However, Macuk makes no bones about the animal shelter's need for the licensing fees. The money is vital to its continued operation, she said.

The shelter does receive donations and bequests, but "we have no regular revenue stream other than the licenses," Macuk said.

"We had to hire a compliance officer," she said.

Since his hire, Evans has written up to 14 citations for unlicensed dogs in a single day, he said.

"I've also gone as low as one license a day," Evans said.

Most people are surprised to open the door and see him standing there, Evans said. Many believe their dogs' rabies certificate to be the same as a county license. Not so, Evans said. A rabies certificate is necessary to get a dog license. But the license must be purchased after the dog's vaccination proof is proffered, he added.

"It would really be nice if the vets would come on board and say, 'This is your rabies certificate, it is not your license,' " Evans said.

Others have castigated Evans as an agent of unfair taxation, he said.

"You have people who see me in my uniform and say it's another governmental step to gouge people out of their money," he said.

Evans also deals with outraged dog owners who wonder why neighborhood cats do not have to be licensed.

"It's a fair question," Macuk said. "But cats tend to go away and hide when they have rabies. Dogs don't. And they create a larger enforcement issue."

Evans said some people deal with his unannounced knocking with humor. One woman asked if her husband needed a license.

Macuk and Evans urge owners of unlicensed dogs not to wait to be cited. A dog license can be downloaded off the county Web site at http://www.co.jackson.or.us. Click on "Popular Pages" on the left-hand side, then on "Animal Control/Adoption" from the list.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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