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Mandatory rabies vaccine reporting could inject money in county coffers

Commissioners consider ordinance which could draw thousands more in dog licensing fees

A proposed ordinance to require Columbia County veterinarians to report rabies shots could mean a significant injection of cash to county coffers if the change leads to a presumed influx of additional dog licensing fees.

There are about 8,000 licensed dogs in Columbia County, and though there is no way to tell how many more might be licensed if the ordinance is enacted, counties with similar ordinances have seen the number of licenses double. At $12 per year to license a spayed or neutered dog, that could lead to thousands of extra dollars for the county.

Sheriff Jeff Dickerson said while it's true dog control programs are funded by licensing fees, the real reason for the Rabies Inoculation Ordinance is to increase operational efficiencies.

Officials say fewer dogs would be impounded if the ordinance is passed by the county Board of Commissioners, leaving more space and services for animals that need them. Due to budget shortfalls the last several years, the Animal Control department reduced services, now dealing only with dog issues. Other animal problems have to be referred to the Oregon Humane Society.

Under Oregon statute, every owner of a dog older than six months must license it within 30 days. The dog must have all mandatory vaccinations, including a rabies shot, says Roger Kadell, the county's animal control officer. Requiring the vet's report should make the process easier, he said.

Owners who vaccinate but don't have a dog license may be contacted by phone or letter and be required to license his or her animal.

Under the ordinance, properly licensed dogs would have vaccination information stored automatically, rather than having an owner search for paperwork when it's time for yearly renewal.

At the very least, officers responding to dog bites would be able to quickly access vaccine information in a county database, Kadell said. That would mean fewer rabies shots and fewer dogs being destroyed because their statuses can't be determined.

Multnomah, Lane, Lincoln and Klamath counties have similar programs, but only Lane County has studied the results. The number of dog licenses in unincorporated areas of Lane County went from 2,700 to 6,800 between 2003 and 2006, the first three years of the program. Yearly licensing fees increased from $77,000 to $165,000.

Pet owners' information won't be used for commercial purposes, and people may still use a veterinarian outside the county if they prefer.