By Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writer
Hoping to boost dismal dog license rates, Summit County is offering to waive late fees for owners of unlicensed pets.
The amnesty program — called ''Pardon My Pooch'' — allows owners to buy a $14 license now and not incur the $14 late penalty. The catch is that the licenses must be purchased at specific community events to qualify.
The goal is to boost compliance and to raise awareness among dog owners that state law requires them to get a license, County Executive Russ Pry said.
Earlier this year, a Beacon Journal analysis showed that only about 30 percent of dogs were licensed in the county last year — one of the worst rates among urban counties in Ohio.
No one seems to know why the percentage is so low. Theories range from the cost to people ignoring the law to the county doing a poor job of marketing and enforcement.
The county has licensed 41,441 dogs so far this year. Last year, the county issued 42,402 licenses.
Officials said it's unclear how many people will take advantage of the amnesty program. Last year, 3,016 licenses were issued late.
''It's a great program,'' said county Councilman Tim Crawford, who has pushed for years for the county to increase the license rate. ''I salute the administration for coming up with it. It's a catchy little phrase.''
State law requires owners to obtain a license within 30 days of getting a new dog. Licenses also must be renewed each year. Licenses for dogs providing assistance to disabled persons are free and valid throughout the duration of the animal's life.
Officials tout licenses as a way for responsible owners to protect their pet, especially if it runs away. Instead of being euthanized or put up for adoption, licensed dogs are returned to their owners.
The county boosted the license fee last year from $8 to $14 to raise more money to operate the animal shelter. All money generated is used to feed, house and vaccinate abandoned animals.
Each 10,000 licenses represent $140,000 in revenue.
Licenses will be sold under the amnesty program at the following community events:
-- Adopt-A-Thon from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Acme Fresh Market, 3235 Manchester Road, Coventry Township.
-- Akron Aeros Pet Day at 6 p.m. Aug. 19 at Canal Park Stadium, 300 S. Main St.
-- The ''Barkitecture'' exhibit from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 31 at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, 714 N. Portage Path.
The county also plans to announce other amnesty events in the future.
For more details on ''Pardon My Pooch,'' call the county Division of Animal Control at 330-643-2845 or go online to http://www.co.summit.oh.us.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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