Animal control personnel say they’re pleased with licensing results

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Animal Control Officer Martin Martinez, left, and Laura Duden, right, watch as Carol Baca fills out a pet license application for a dog she adopted from the city shelter.

Kevin Wilson

Animal control personnel said there’s plenty of work to go, but they’re pleased with the impact the city’s pet licensing program has made.

The ordinance, which requires pets wear either a city-issued tag or have other clear identification, took effect July 19. Since then, nearly 3,000 dogs or cats have been logged into the city’s pet registry database.

Martin Martinez, who has spent 13 years as an animal control officer, said as of Thursday, there were 2,727 animals logged into the city’s pet registry database — 2,414 dogs and 313 cats.

Licenses are free, and available at the shelter and the Clovis Police Department. Every licensed animal is issued a tag that is logged onto the database, accessible by the shelter and Clovis police dispatch.

“Let’s say you found a dog,” Maestas said. “You call me now and say there’s a dog over here and it’s wearing a purple tag. I can tell you who owns it. If you’re willing to call (the owner), that saves the dog from having to make a trip down here to the pound.”

Martinez said animal control staff has kept count, and that scenario has already happened 15 times. In every case, the city was saved a trip because the caller was happy to personally return the pet or call the owner.

There are still plenty of pets to be licensed, staff said. Maestas estimated just one of every 25 animals that comes into the shelter is licensed, and Martinez estimates there are 10,000 pets in the city.

But Martinez said he’s already seen an impact, noting that in previous years only one of every 99 animals had some sort of identification.

City Commissioner Chris Bryant, who voted for the ordinance, found out its effectiveness firsthand when family dogs Tiny and Gizmo got loose last month. The pair only got a few blocks before an animal control officer caught them, called in tag numbers and placed a call to Bryant.

“The wind blew the gate open and off they went,” Bryant said. “I didn’t realize they were gone at all. I was at home, feeling not very well. I had (a cold) that was going around.”

Bryant said animal control is a well-run department, and the licenses are an extension of that.

“I think it’s a great service the city can provide,” Bryant said. “It’s always better if we can get the animals back to their rightful owner instead of taking them to the shelter and hoping they get claimed.”

If staff can’t identify the owner of a pet, the animal is put for adoption after a couple of days, and is available to rescue organizations as well. If all methods have failed, the pet is euthanized after about six business days.

That might not sound like a lot of time, but Maestas said, “All we have is 30 cages, and we take care of dogs from Melrose, Texico, Grady and the county.”

The ordinance requires owners of dogs and cats to obtain a license and tag for their animals within 15 days of acquiring or residing with a pet in the city. The animals must wear the tag, or be identifiable through a microchip or veterinarian-applied tattoo. Owners must show proof of rabies vaccination, either through rabies certificates or a veterinarian signature on the license application.

Animal rescue groups, police dogs or assistance animals are exempt.

Violation of the ordinance can include fines of up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail. In most cases, violators are made aware of licensure requirements at the shelter, and Martinez only remembers fines handed down on top of other penalties when a dog bit somebody and the matter went to court.

“We’re not trying to hammer anybody,” Martinez said.