Owners of unlicensed dogs may end up in court

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MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – Starting Feb. 1, if your dog is picked up by Animal Control and does not have a license, you will have to appear in court.

“I think more people will get responsible with licenses,” said Bill Candell, Middle Township’s animal control officer. “I’m hopeful people are doing the right thing.”

The required court appearance is to prompt people to get dog licenses, he said.

In the past, people received a courtesy warning for an unlicensed dog picked up by animal control, but a case of rabies in Green Creek in December changed that, Candell said.

A bullmastiff killed a rabid raccoon Dec. 22; the dog was fine, was vaccinated for rabies and only needed a booster shot, according to Candell.

Middle’s zero-tolerance policy starts Feb. 1. Candell said unlicensed dog owners will receive a summons to appear in Middle Township Court and a license application.

The state requires dogs at least 7 months be licensed, and each year the licenses must be renewed.

Candell did not know how many dogs were licensed in Middle Township when interviewed this week, and those numbers were not available Monday afternoon.

“It’s still early, it’s not the end of the month yet,” he said.

There were 106 people who bought licenses for their dogs during a free rabies clinic Saturday, Jan. 26, at the township’s public works garage in Cape May Court House. Candell said 166 animals were vaccinated for rabies at the clinic.

That more than doubled compared to past rabies clinics, he said.

The township held three rabies clinics in 2012, according to Candell.

A licensed dog lets animal control know if the animal had its rabies shot, Candell said. Being vaccinated for rabies is a requirement for a license, he said.

Fines for not having a dog licensed begin at $50, according to Candell. Cost for a license for a spayed or neutered dog is $8.20 and non-spayed or neutered dog is $11.20.

Animal Control picks up everything from cats to dogs and wildlife like skunks and raccoons, he said.

“If a dog is licensed they will go home,” he said.

Otherwise, Candell said, the dog would be taken to the Cape May County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center on Shelter Road, Cape May Court House.

People also drop off stray animals in secluded areas in Middle Township, but he did not want to say where.

No month is more popular than others for animal control, he said.

“It’s been consistent year round,” Candell said.

Besides serving Middle Township, the township animal control responds to Sea Isle City, Avalon, Stone Harbor, West Wildwood and Cape May Point, according to Candell. Lower Township and Middle Township have a mutual aid agreement, he said.

In 2012, township employees went out into the community to see how many dogs were licensed. Committeewoman Susan DeLanzo called the census successful.

At a Township Committee meeting Jan. 23, she said she would like to have another dog census.

“Most people were appreciative of the visit,” she said.

Animal control has one full-time officer and two substitutes, he said. Candell has been with the township’s animal control since 1998.

Township Committee is looking into outsourcing the department. Two companies submitted bids: Shore Animal Control of Seaville and Tri-County Animal Control Services of Tuckahoe. A decision is expected before March 31.


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