By Kathy Antoniotti
Beacon Journal staff writer
Sarge could be a poster dog for the merits of licensing the family pet. In this case, a license was his ticket home.
The year-old stray Siberian Husky was picked up and taken to Summit County Animal Control in October. Without identification to locate his owner, the dog was placed up for adoption and the Decker family of Norton eagerly adopted him.
Two weeks later, on a vacation to a Guernsey County cabin, Sarge ran away.
''We were in the middle of nowhere — no cell phones, no nothing,'' said Deb Decker.
On their last day at the cabin, Sarge picked-up the scent of another animal during a family outing in the woods. Decker's son, Gabe, 9, let go of the leash when he was dragged through a field of nettles, Decker said.
But when Sarge went AWOL this time, he was wearing a dog license that identified where he came from and to whom he belonged.
The husky was found a short time later about two miles from where he made his escape by a woman who contacted Animal Control after reading his Summit County tag, Decker said.
''That license saved Sarge's life,'' she said. ''It's renewal time and, I can guarantee, I will be licensing him again.''
By state law, all dogs over three months of age must be licensed. New Summit County dog owners have 30 days to buy a $14 license that assigns a distinctive identification number to each dog. Licenses must be renewed annually between Dec. 1 and Jan. 31.
Applications for new licenses can be downloaded online here. There are also several locations where a new license may be purchased for an additional 75 cent fee.
Current registered dog owners are mailed a yearly renewal application. Licenses may also be renewed at the Summit County Fiscal Office,
1030 E. Tallmadge Ave. in Akron.
Renewals after the deadline are charged an additional $14 late fee.
If a dog goes missing, a license is the best way to notify owners if someone finds it, said Craig Stanley, the county's director of administrative services.
''The Animal Control facility is filled with dogs whose owners said they would never get loose,'' Stanley said.
The Summit County fiscal office sold 42,312 licenses for the year ending Dec. 1, taking in $626,470 in fees.
Those fees, less about $75,000 for administrative costs associated with licensing, are spent on the operation of the animal control facility, said Stanley.
''The more licenses we sell, the more money we have to take care of the animals in Summit County,'' he said.
After searching for Sarge formore than six hours, Deb Decker's husband, Madison, had to go home for work, taking Gabe and one of the couple's twin sons, Grant, 11, with him.
Twin Garrett stayed another night at the cabin with his mom, hoping the dog would find his way back.
Defeated, mother and son resigned themselves to leaving the next day without their dog.
''We left our phone numbers with everyone. I promised Garrett I would call all the animal shelters as soon as we got home,'' Deb Decker said.
They were 20 minutes from home when Summit County animal control manager Christine Fatheree called and said Sarge had been located.
''A woman called with the license number and we were able to track it. That's the only way she knew how to contact us,'' Fatheree said.
They turned around immediately to get Sarge. He had been caught about an hour after his escape, Deb Decker said.
''The experience changed our lives and the kids will always know how important it is to license their dogs,'' she said.
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