Editorial: City dogs should be licensed

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Last week, we wrote about a new option for dog owners in this city that allows for a lifetime dog license, eliminating the need for dog owners to renew their license every two years.

We've seen some feedback from our readers, and it sounds like there are plenty of dog owners who didn't even know they needed a license, as well as a few who don't think they really need to have one.

It wasn't much of a surprise, at least not this time. The surprise happened last August, when we wrote about the most popular dog names and breeds in the city. At that time, we found that, in a city of more than 22,000 people, there were only 425 dog licenses on file. The American Pet Products Association conducted a study that suggests 37 to 47 percent of U.S. households have a dog. With about 9,000 households in the city (as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau), Hastings could reasonably expect to have more than 3,000 dogs living within its borders. There's quite a difference between that and the 425 dogs that had licenses this past summer.

Much of that is likely due to lack of knowledge about the city ordinance. But many people likely know their dog is supposed to have a license and simply decided not to get one. And while it may seem like more of a nuisance to obtain the license, there are many good reasons to have one.

First of all, it's the law.

Second, it can help dog owners when a dog goes missing. A license helps law enforcement locate a dog's owner.

A license also serves as evidence that the dog is being kept up to date on rabies shots, an assurance that's valuable for anyone who might need or want to interact with the animal.

The issue of rabies vaccinations is also tied to public safety. While we're sure that most dogs in Hastings are mild-mannered family pets, we do know that dogs occasionally bite. As the agency responsible for local public safety, it's the city's responsibility to keep track of public safety risks — even the small ones — and do its best to mitigate them. The city does this by requiring dogs to be licensed, and licenses won't be issued without proof of vaccination.

Finally, dog licenses help the city protect the dogs themselves, by ensuring that not too many dogs live in a single household, preventing a host of health and sanitation issues that can arise in such situations.

Having a dog license seems like a small thing. And, in the grand scheme of things, maybe it is. Still, we'd like to encourage dog owners to be responsible and make sure their pets have the necessary papers and tags.

You can read the local ordinance on the city website, www.hastingsmn.gov, by clicking on "City Charter & Ordinances" under the "City Government" heading. The laws regarding animals are in Chapter 91.