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Published: Tuesday, 5/26/2009

Leash the license police

THE advisory committee charged with looking for ways to improve the county dog warden's operation has not yet dealt with the most serious problem, Dog Warden Tom Skeldon, choosing instead to continue the dubious practice of door-to-door license checks.

In its first official policy vote, the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee recommended that deputy wardens be allowed to continue knocking on doors in search of unlicensed animals.

We opposed the license checks in the belief that their purpose was to raise revenue, not improve compliance, which already is the highest in Ohio despite Lucas County, at $25 per animal per year, having the state's highest license fee as well.

That suspicion was confirmed by committee member Rob Ludeman, who said he and his colleagues examined the dog warden's revenue statements, then agreed the practice could continue.

Currently, people who admit to having an unlicensed dog are charged twice the regular yearly fee, undoubtedly discouraging them from fessing up, while those who lie can face even higher costs if they are caught.

If the dog warden's goal is to license as many animals as possible, why not reduce the $25 annual fee and offer discounts to low-income families? Making licenses more affordable would go a long way toward encouraging more people to properly license their dogs.

Door-to-door checks are a poor use of Mr. Skeldon's ever-expanding budget, but if the county commissioners decide to follow the committee's recommendation, we believe a fairer procedure - and one that would reduce the temptation to lie - would be to offer on-the-spot licensing at the regular yearly rate.

In addition, we agree with the committee recommendation that specific neighborhoods should not be singled out. In fact, equity demands that deputy wardens knock on every door in the county. Then we'll see how serious Mr. Skledon is about tracking down license scofflaws.

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