Guest Colomn: Plan to microchip dogs should be countywide

Guest Colomn: Plan to microchip dogs should be countywide

By Barbara Nozzi

People have talked long enough about the interconnected tragedies of pet overpopulation, dog fighting, backyard breeders, euthanasia and irresponsible “owners.” I support Alderman Jeff Holt’s proposed ordinance to microchip dogs in Rockford; however, this ordinance should be countywide with a few additions.

Not only should all dogs be microchipped to more easily identify lost dogs, but anyone breeding and/or selling puppies (including pet stores) should be licensed and their litters microchipped as well. This way, it will be easy to determine which breeders’ dogs are ending up at the county shelter, where they are housed and killed at taxpayers’ expense. With budget cuts and layoffs, people contributing to the pet overpopulation tragedy should be held accountable.

If a particular breeder’s dogs routinely end up at the county shelter, there should be fines or other consequences for the breeder. To compensate for additional paperwork, I suggest an initial registration fee of at least $100 (or more) that could be renewed annually if that breeder’s dogs are not:

a) ending up at the county shelter;

b) being traced back from dogfights;

c) found in conditions of neglect or abandonment;

d) found to be vicious; and

e) provided the breeder does not have drug or felony convictions.

Breeders making $600-$1200 on each puppy can certainly afford to pay $100 for annual registration. Professional breeders with quality dogs should be proud to microchip them and identify them as their own. By the way, why aren’t breeders paying taxes on that income?

“Responsible” breeders will always screen potential buyers and even reclaim an animal if no longer wanted. Breeders objecting to this proposal obviously have no regard for the over-bred dogs, the shelter employees with the unenviable task of killing the unadopted animals, or the overburdened taxpayers paying for it.

If local newspapers would cooperate by accepting advertisements only from licensed breeders, it would encourage compliance, or breeders would risk losing a valuable marketplace to sell their animals. Recent newspaper editorials appeared eager to solve the problem. Are they willing to participate this way?

The county’s differential licensing program has been in place for several years with reduced fees for altered animals. Perhaps now it’s time to increase the differential for unaltered animals.

As for a ban on pit bulls, careful consideration needs to be given before picking on one particular breed. Banning pit bulls will only put other breeds at risk of becoming the status dog of low-life abusers. Dog fighting is a people problem. People using dogs in this way need to be punished—not the dogs. Vicious dog laws are presently in place to hold people accountable. Part of the tragedy of unwanted animals is that they may become victims of dogfights, or used as bait to train fighters.

More attention needs to be focused on the mistreatment of animals, particularly dogs left chained outside or confined in outdoor kennels. Chained dogs are frustrated dogs, and frustrated dogs will either become aggressive or eventually despondent. What kind of life is that for your companion animal? Chained dogs are also exposed to danger from roaming dog packs or by strangulation from their chains twisting around trees or other objects. And an unspayed, chained female is an open invitation to irresponsible breeding. No doubt, a high percentage of complaints to Winnebago County Animal Services are to report chained and neglected dogs—again at taxpayers’ expense.

Dogs typically chained outside include “Pits, Rotts and Dobes”—all short-coated breeds unable to withstand extreme cold, yet they’re often kept outside 24/7 without proper shelter. If you haven’t seen pathetic dogs like this chained outside begging for attention, then perhaps you need to get out more. They’re everywhere. Are these dogs, really vicious or just craving companionship and loving care, being the pack animals that they are?

If chaining a dog for 24 hours without relief were to become illegal, people might actually think twice before getting a dog, knowing they’d have to keep him inside, or fence a yard to provide space to run and play. Then the dog would more likely be a well-behaved companion animal as opposed to a vicious dog or one used for fighting. This might be one way to keep undeserving people from having dogs.

While selfish people who misuse animals will always exist, it is possible to impede their proliferation with strong laws that are enforced. An ordinance to microchip all dogs and license all breeders is a good start. A chaining ban would be icing on the cake.

Remember, every dog deserves a good home, but not every home deserves a dog.

Barbara Nozzi is a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) activist.

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