RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. -

Officials with Riverside County Animal Services said some key points have been missed regarding recent questions about the county's efforts to protect animals and ensure dogs are licensed.

Robert Miller works for Animal Services and he wants critics of the licensing program to fully understand what happens when they receive a citation.

"In the first place, if people properly license their family pets, any citation goes away," Miller said. "We believe in this program, but we are also open to hearing about ways to make it better."

Miller said that even though the program has been well-publicized, it continues to surprise and shock residents, and Animal Services hopes the following information will help promote widespread understanding and appreciation for the program.

Miller's Key Points Include:

  • Since 1933, a dog license has been required in California.
  • A dog license is only $16 for an altered pet.
  • A citation is a fix-it ticket. The dog owner may see a dollar amount on a bottom of a citation that can be shocking. Some owners, with multiple dogs, may see citations with dollar amounts totaling more than $1,000. We're not trying to shock people. But we know that the dollar amounts are getting people's attention. However, the citation is a correctable matter. If the dog owner complies with the citation, the large-dollar penalties associated with the citation are dismissed. Again, it's a fix-it ticket.
  • Will there still be costs to the dog owner? Yes, Miller said. The dog owner is receiving a citation from our department because we do not have in our records a current dog license on file for the residence where the license inspector has seen/heard a dog. The citation is meant to put the dog owner on notice that he/she must now become compliant with state law. Getting a dog license for an unaltered dog is $100. Most pet owners, once cited, get the dog spayed or neutered - something they probably wanted to do for a long time anyway, Miller said. That surgery will come at some expense to the dog owner, of course, but then they will only be paying $16 annually for a dog license, instead of $100 every year for that same dog license.
  • A pet owner with multiple dogs will presumably face an economic hardship in trying to comply with the citation within the 20-day timeline listed on the citation, Miller said. We encourage these dog owners to reach out to us by calling us or e-mailing us and asking for extensions. Many dog owners have already done this. In fact, if our license inspectors have made contact with a pet owner with multiple dogs at their property, the license inspector will often cite the owner for one dog only, with the caveat that citations will follow for the remainder of the dogs at the home, Miller said. This gives these dog owners the ability to become compliant, one dog and one month at a time, to avoid placing a severe hardship on these pet owners. We're always trying to work in concert with the dog owners, Miller said. But they also must show us, too, that they're willing to become compliant with state law.    
  • Can the county extend the amnesty programs it offered? The city of Indio and the county worked together before the start of the Integrated Canine Licensing Program (ICLP) kicked off officially with an amnesty period. The amnesty period allowed dog owners to become compliant without facing any back penalties for failing to license their dog and it also allowed the owners to avoid late fees. A similar amnesty program was conducted in the cities of Riverside and Jurupa Valley with great success. Miller said that Indio's amnesty period was extended multiple times and the total amnesty lasted six months. Many residents took advantage of the amnesty but many others procrastinated, which is human nature, and failed to use the amnesty as a great opportunity to get up to speed with state law, he said. Extending amnesty periods further would have to be discussed by individual city councils for respective cities, Miller said. The county would be open to starting new amnesty periods, if respective cities desired such strategies.

"Overall, the license inspectors are performing a highly unpopular task - but an important one in our bigger mission," Miller said. "Who enjoys getting a ticket? No one likes getting one. No one is happy when they come home and notice a citation on their door knob. But no one wants to hear about thousands of pets getting euthanized each year either. No one wants to be attacked by a stray dog. No one wants to have their pet killed by a roaming dog."

Miller added, "Our strong theory has always been that altered dogs tend to lose their desire to roam and that means less opportunities for bad things to happen, such as bites or serious attacks."

To help improve communication, license inspectors will begin attaching informative fliers with each citation. The fliers will have detailed facts about dog licensing, why dogs need a rabies vaccination and the county's ordinances related to dog licenses and microchips.

These fliers will provide locations and organizations that have been trying to assist dog owners in getting their pets spayed or neutered. They'll also inform dog owners on how to request an extension.

Dog owners can call the main shelter at 951-358-7387 or the Coachella Valley Animal Campus at 760-343-3644.