Julius Hamilton pulled the reflective yellow and orange vest over his head, put a water bottle in his backpack and grabbed a handful of door hangers.
Then he, along with three other teenagers and a supervisor, started walking house to house in Stow to hang the fliers, which warn people to license their dogs and include an application on one side.
“It’s the law!” the flier says in bright red.
By the end of their four-hour shift, Hamilton and the others will have marched several miles and hung the fliers at hundreds of homes.
The unusual work detail is part of Summit County’s latest campaign to boost dog license sales. The county designed a work program this year through its Summer Youth Employment for Success effort to help raise awareness about dog licenses using teenagers as its workforce.
State law requires dog owners and kennels to license their dogs each year by Jan. 31. But not everyone does.
For years, the county has tried unsuccessfully to increase licenses by offering amnesty periods, online sales, special holiday promotions and adoption events. Officials have even appealed to owners’ hearts, saying that licenses are a way to protect pets, especially if they run away.
But those efforts, for whatever reason, haven’t resulted in more sales.
Licenses for individual dogs, as opposed to those for kennels, have hovered just under 43,000 — well below the estimated 133,600 dogs living in the county. (The number is based on a formula from the American Veterinary Medical Association that there are roughly six dogs for every 10 households in a community.)
The number of licenses has actually gone down since 2003, when 47,286 were sold.
So far this year, 38,152 have been sold.
The cost of a license jumped $4 to $18 a year this year.
The reason for the lackluster sales just might be that people aren’t aware that it’s the law or the benefits that come along with a license, Hamilton said.
“Not too many people are informed,” said Hamilton, 19, of Akron, who’s studying at the University of Akron to become a physical therapist. “You can’t do things you don’t know about.”
That’s why the new campaign — flooding communities with that message one house at a time — just might make an impact.
The teens are hanging fliers at every house they encounter, not just the ones with dogs.
For 12 weeks, they will walk neighborhoods in Stow, Green, Hudson, Cuyahoga Falls, Akron, Springfield Township and Macedonia spreading the word about the importance of getting a dog license.
The neighborhoods were chosen because they are walkable and safe.
County spokeswoman Jill Skapin said the pilot program accomplishes several goals — increasing awareness about dog licenses, providing work for teens and promoting a healthy lifestyle because the teens walk so much as part of the job.
She estimated that the county is spending less than $2,000 on the campaign and just needs to sell about 115 licenses to break even.
The county will track the applications returned on the leaflets — which also waive the late fee for licenses — to see if the program makes a difference.
“We’re certainly hoping,” Skapin said.
The money raised through license sales supports the county animal shelter in Akron.
County officials were unaware of any other county in Ohio using teens as part of a dog license campaign.
Some counties, though, are much more tough when it comes to enforcement.
For example, the Stark County Dog Warden’s Office announced that it’s canvassing the county to look for unlicensed dogs. It says it can cite owners on the spot.
The Summit teens and supervisor Nick Adair aren’t issuing any citations.
Adair will chat with people about the campaign if they are outside, but the marching orders are simply to hang the fliers.
On the day the Beacon Journal accompanied the work crew, Hamilton and Keyiona Austin, 18, hit one side of the street, while Keyonna Rogers, 18, and Saterea Singleton, 17, hit the other, alternating houses as they went.
Every so often, a dog would bark from inside a house.
“I don’t mind,” Hamilton said when a beagle barked as he approached a house.
Overall, there are about 400 teens in the Youth Employment for Success program working throughout the county. There are 12 participating in the dog license campaign.
They all don’t walk every day.
While one group is walking, another group is working at the animal shelter.
When they are out in the neighborhoods, they receive a water bottle, sunscreen and pedometer to track their steps.
Hamilton enjoys the time outside.
“I walk most of the time anyway,” he said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com.