In an effort to join the modern world, the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services is letting dog owners license their pets online -- finally joining pretty much every other major city in the U.S.
L.A.'s troubled and problem-riddled Animal Services agency -- the big department has failed for years to shut up 2,000 persistently barking dogs in Los Angeles, for example -- is just now implementing the technology. Here's why you need to take advantage of it, right now:
Fully one-third of all pets get lost at some point in their life.
Think about that.
So, if you want to avoid ever having to hang up those heartbreaking lost dog posters around town, it's probably smart to take advantage of what the city is offering here if you've got an unlicensed dog.
Here's how to do it:
Instead of facing the inconvenience of going all the way to the local shelter, check out the LAAS website to get a new dog license or renew an existing one.
For pups that have already been spayed or neutered, the cost of a new license is $20. For the ones who haven't yet been "altered," the price is a bit higher at $100, plus some extra breeder fees.
One more thing: If you've slacked off on renewing your dog licenses for the past few years, animal services is giving you until March 31 to do that online without paying any late fees.
The campaign, which is also sponsored by the Found Animals Foundation, is meant to increase awareness about pet licensing and decrease the number of lost animals.
Of the one-third of all pets who get lost at some point in their life, according to Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette:
"Without proper identification, 90 percent of those pets are never returned home," she said in a press release.
Another goal of the promotion is to double dog license revenue, which would raise nearly $700,000 a year to provide as many as 20,000 spaying and neutering procedures for low-income pet owners.
According to Barnette, $7 from every $20 license fee -- 35 percent -- goes toward a trust fund for pet owners who can't afford to pay for the spay/neuter procedures themselves.
Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Los Angeles, said her organization backed the city's efforts to promote pet licensing.
"spcaLA supports any effort to bring people into licensing compliance," she said. "It's good for the animal. It's good for revenue."
Dogs more than four months old are required to be licensed by California law, but less than one-third of the estimated 350,000-500,000 in L.A. actually are, according to Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of Found Animals Foundation.
Microchipping, though not mandated by state law, is an extra precaution pet owners can take that's strongly recommended by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as well as the city animal services department and Found Animals Foundation.
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The ASPCA's lost and found stories website tells the tales of missing pets who were reunited with their owners thanks to having appropriate identification, like microchipping.
Take, for example, the heartwarming story about Yeager, a Jack Russell terrier who was lost for more than a year, as told by his owner, Ellen Zigmont:
May 14, 2005, was one of the worst days of my life! Yeager, my Jack Russell terrier, went missing. I thought he was in our fenced-in backyard, calmly relaxing in the sun, but when I called his name, he didn't answer. It seems he had dug under the fence and gotten out. I panicked, got into the car and drove all over the neighborhood, calling his name out the window over and over again with no luck.
The next day, I put up fliers in veterinary offices and stores and posted his description on lost dog sites on the Internet. I called every veterinary office within 10 miles of my home, put an ad in the lost-and-found section of several newspapers and even hired an animal psychic to help me. Six months went by, during which I received a few phone calls, but nothing came of them.
A year and a half later, in November 2006, a woman from the Henry Co. Humane Society where we adopted Yeager called me. She said, "Ellen, you're not going to believe this. I have Yeager!"
It seems that his ID tag had fallen off when he went under the fence. A woman found him and took him home with her until August 2006, when she decided that she didn't want him anymore and brought him to a vet's office to be euthanized. Yeager was only five years old at the time.
The veterinarian refused to put him to sleep and the vet technician found a family to adopt him. During a storm, his newly adopted family put Yeager on the porch -- little did they know how afraid he is of thunder. At the first thunderclap, he jumped through a screen window, ran off and finally came to rest at a house a few streets away. The lady who lived there brought him to her vet's office.
The vet discovered that Yeager had a microchip that contained the telephone number and address of the humane society. One of the staffers, who knew that Yeager had been missing for a year and a half, went to the vet's office and almost fainted when she saw that it was him! We all agreed that it was a miracle.
If you don't live in the city of L.A. but still need to register your pet, check out www.LApetlicense.com to look up locations and prices in your area.