The ability to purchase multi-year dog tags has been available to Washington County residents since Dec. 1, but so far there have been few takers, according to the county auditor's office.
"We've sold five of the new three-year tags and only two of the permanent (lifetime) tags since the beginning of the month," said deputy auditor Holly Webb, adding that a total of nearly 1,800 dog tags had been sold as of Monday. Most of those were one-year tags.
This past year, through Nov. 30, the county sold 11,479 tags.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Marietta dog owners Lexie Hausman, left, and Emilee Schwendeman took their dogs, Zoe, left, and Bailey for a run at the Jackson Hill dog park Monday afternoon.
She said the price of a one-year tag in Washington County remains at $16, while the new three-year tag is $48, and the new lifetime dog tag costs $160.
Webb noted the lifetime tag is non-refundable and only good for the life of the dog for which it is purchased.
"The tags are not transferable from one dog to another," she said.
At a glance
Ohio House Bill 59, the state budget bill for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in June of this year.
A portion of HB 59 mandates that all 88 Ohio counties provide multi-year dog tags in addition to traditional single-year tags.
The new dog tags can be purchased for three years or for the lifetime of the animal for which the tag was purchased.
In Washington County single-year tags are $16 per animal; three-year tags are $48; and lifetime tags are $160.
From Dec. 1, 2012 through Nov. 30, 2013, the dog license fees generated $191,168.
The county sets aside $60,000 annually from the dog license fees account to support services at the Humane Society of the Mid Ohio Valley animal shelter. The remainder supports the county dog warden's office, including equipment, supplies and services.
County dog owners have until Jan. 31 to purchase their dog tags. After Jan. 31 a penalty fee doubling the cost of the tags will be assessed.
Sources: Washington County Auditor's Office and Washington County Commissioners
Some local dog owners think the lifetime license is a good idea.
"I would go for a lifetime tag-that's not really a bad price," said Emilee Schwendeman of Marietta who was exercising her dog, Zoe, at the dog park on Jackson Hill Monday.
Lexi Hausman, also from Marietta, just recently adopted her dog, Bailey, from the local Humane Society of the Mid Ohio Valley shelter.
"I think it would be a lot easier to buy a lifetime license," she said. "It's a better idea than having to go back and buy a new license every year."
But Teresa Hayes, another local dog owner who spearheaded the effort to develop the dog park on Jackson Hill, isn't sold on the lifetime or three-year license idea.
"I'll stay with the one-year license," she said. "The lifetime license is non-transferable, and it would not be good for people who have older dogs."
Hayes noted those dogs are not likely to live long enough for the owners to recapture their full investment.
County dog owners have until Jan. 31 to purchase new tags. After that deadline a penalty fee is assessed which doubles the cost of the tags. As a courtesy the county auditor's office mails out reminders to dog owners every year that their dog tags are due.
Auditor Bill McFarland said all 88 Ohio counties were mandated to offer the new multi-year tags by the state legislature as part of the state budget bill passed in June of this year.
"My understanding is that the provision was inserted by the Senate president who thought it would be a good idea that provides a service to county residents," he said.
McFarland said the state mandate has required some modification of the software the county uses to track dog licensing as the current programming is set up for single-year dog tags.
"We also had to purchase three different types of tags, including 2014 tags, and 2016 tags for the licenses that expire in three years, as well as a number of lifetime tags," he said.
McFarland said he's not surprised there hasn't been a rush to purchase the new multi-year tags because dog owners may not want to risk buying a three-year or lifetime license in the event the animal would die before that time.
Washington County dog warden Kelly McGilton said she's had little feedback from dog owners about the new multi-year tags, but one of her main concerns is that many owners do not put the tags on their pets.
"I would estimate 90 percent of the dogs we come in contact with are not wearing tags, although 70 percent of the owners have purchased them," she said. "For some reason they just don't put the tags on their dogs."
McGilton noted not displaying tags on a dog is considered a misdemeanor in Washington County, subject to a $150 fine.
"The tags are important for the dog's sake," she said. "If I have to pick up a dog and it's wearing a tag I can take it home. If there's no tag displayed I have to take the animal to the Humane Society shelter and the owner will have to pay a fee of at least $35 to reclaim the dog."
McGilton said the fee covers the cost of shots and worming that has to be performed on all stray animals entering the shelter.
"Without a tag they have no way of contacting the owner and knowing whether the animal has been wormed or had its shots," she said.