Residents who find lost dogs that are wearing Lucas County license tags will now be able to go online and find out who the animal's owner is.
But unlike content on similar Web sites in other counties, the information on the Web site at www.co.lucas.oh.us/lostandfound, created by the office of Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, is limited to first name and phone number.
Ms. Lopez called the site a "hybrid approach" that increases the benefit of buying a dog license without compromising the privacy of county residents. But some members of the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee, which recommended creation of the site, were disappointed it didn't provide more information.
"The information is public record and I feel the addresses should be listed," said Jean Keating, founder of the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates and a member of the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee. "Why do we want to make it harder for people [to return dogs to owners]? I looked at some numbers and many are cell phones. Those change quite frequently but usually your address is good for at least a year."
Ms. Lopez said her department decided to limit the information available based on input from county Dog Warden Julie Lyle and former dog warden Tom Skeldon. Both had concerns about giving out too much information online.
Ms. Lyle said she had concerns about safety, particularly the possibility that if too much information was available, it could promote the stealing of dogs, especially if the breed was made available online and it was a sought-after or expensive breed. Unscrupulous people could seek out owners with certain breeds and steal the dogs and sell them or even worse, try to extort money from their owners, she said.
The Web site is part of the "Lucas County Loves Dogs" program, which provided purchasers of 2012 dog licenses with a card they can use to obtain discounts on a range of services and products from area businesses, Ms. Lopez said
"We are going to be introducing as many benefits as possible to emphasize the importance of licensing in Lucas County," Ms. Lopez said.
Previously, residents who found dogs wearing licenses had to call the dog warden or the auditor's department to have them look up the license number for the owner's information to return the dog. The information was not available on weekends and evenings when the two offices are closed. Now, the contact information on a licensed dog owner can be obtained 24 hours a day.
The new online service allows users to obtain information on Lucas County licenses from 2012 through all of 2006.
In Wood County, information is available on license numbers for years 2012 through 2007. Users are provided with the owner's phone number and the dog's age, gender, hair color and length, and breed.
Fulton County's online site gives the owner's name and address, the age of the dog, gender, hair color and length, breed, and the dog's name. Licenses from 2010-12 are searchable.
Users who enter a 2011 or 2012 license number on Montgomery County's lost dog Web site are given the dog owner's complete name, address and multiple phone numbers, and users can also click on a map to reveal where they live. The Montgomery County auditor also provides a complete list of all licenses issued for the current year that is searchable by name, street name, breed, or license number.
Franklin County provides a similar Web site, along with a Dog eBulletin Board where residents can post information and pictures of both lost and found dogs.
Ms. Lopez said the Lucas County lost dogs Web site could be expanded next year based on feedback from county residents.
Steve Serchuk, chairman of the advisory committee, said the group's recommendations had asked for dog owner addresses to be available online by Dec. 31, 2011. While this site doesn't provide addresses, it should still aid in returning lost dogs to owners more quickly, he said.
"It should reduce the number of calls to the dog warden, and reduce the number of dogs who have to be picked up by the dog warden, and also reduce the processing of those dogs by the dog warden," Mr. Serchuk said. "It's not unlike the police relying on the community to help them keep crime down. It's neighbors helping neighbors."
Contact Tanya Irwin at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6066.