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County considering requiring animal licenses
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The county is considering requiring pet owners to pay for licenses for their dogs and cats and is reaching out to the county’s municipalities to get their opinions.

Chairman Kathy Morgan presented the proposal at Monday’s Covington City Council work session and the Oxford City Council meeting; the license fees would help fund Newton County Animal Control and allow the county to create a database of pets to ensure that all dogs and cats receives rabies vaccinations.

Licenses would be required to be purchased annually for all cats and dogs older than six months or age. Licenses for spayed or neutered animals would costs $10 per animal and $25 for animals that were not spayed or neutered.

Morgan said the county estimates that there may be around 100,000 pets in the county, assuming an average of two-and-a-half pets for each of the approximately 40,000 homes in Newton County. She said the fee would not be implemented immediately, but would be phased in during the next four to five years to provide time to educate all residents.

Mayor Kim Carter asked if the licensing requirement was common, noting she had never lived in area that required it. Morgan said it was required in some of the state's denser areas. Locally, she said Porterdale requires licensing at a cost of $5; the licenses are acquired through the city hall.

City Manager Steve Horton thought the proposal would be more effective if rabies vaccinations would be offered at the same time as licensing, so residents could take care of all requirements at once.

Councilman Keith Dalton said he did not support licensing, but if it was instituted, he would like residents to be able to get their license through their local veterinarian.

Morgan said county animal control officials have picked up more dogs that don’t havrabies vaccinations, which she believes is a sign of the difficult economic times. In addition, licensing would allow officials to ensure that families did not break the rule of having more than three animals in their home; residents have to get a license to run a kennel to own more animals.

Morgan said the Board of Commissioners will consider the matter next at its November 2 meeting, but will only discuss it, not take a vote. The county provides animal control services for all of its municipalities.