Albemarle County has changed how dog owners get licenses for their furry friends.
The county has outsourced its dog license process to a Texas company called PetData. Pet owners could begin applying for licences through the new company in November.
The transition is one of a few changes that dog owners could see in the coming months, including a proposed ordinance change that would require dogs be on a leash when not on an owner’s property and another that would ban frequent or continuous sounds by animals located on parcels five acres or more in the Rural Areas zoning district. The proposed noise ordinance would not apply to livestock and poultry.
The county decided to switch to an outside animal licensing company because it became difficult to keep up with the volume of records the county was receiving and sorting, said county spokeswoman Emily Kilroy.
“Because our staff are now not sorting veterinary records, they are better able to focus on personal property and real estate tax records,” she said.
When Albemarle receives veterinary records, it receives records not only from Albemarle veterinarians, but also from all of the vets’ other patients, even those in other localities. Zip codes and place names often don’t change with jurisdictional lines, so Albemarle staff had to manually sort records.
“All of the records from vets in the county now got to PetData, so our staff is not sorting them — PetData transmits them to the other jurisdictions,” Kilroy said.
Albemarle staff chose the company because it stores the pet’s records in its database and information can be updated by owners online. The company also sends renewal reminder notices.
“The other thing that was attractive about PetData was they still do process mailed payments, because we do understand that not everyone wants to take advantage or can take advantage of online services,” Kilroy said. “We felt like it was a good best of both worlds opportunity.”
Some residents have had issues with the new system, like Walter Quast, who’s dog license took 39 days to arrive after he mailed his check.
“For many, many years, it’s been a very simple process just to go down to the county office building and it’s basically a 15-minute procedure, as long as nobody else is in line,” he said.
Kilroy said the company has now committed to a two to four day turn around time, but PetData’s webpage for Albemarle says it will mail the tag and license receipt within 10 business days from the day they receive a completed license application and payment.
As of last Friday, Kilroy said, 425 licenses had been sold through the new system. The county has had fewer than 15 complaints, and many are from people who said they would rather buy the license in person.
Albemarle paid a one-time only set up fee of $1,000 for the licencing company, and will pay a monthly invoice on a per-tag basis.
For a one-year license, the resident pays $5 and PetData charges Albemarle $4.60. For a $10 two year license, Albemarle will pay $6.60, and a three year $15 license will cost Albemarle $8.60.
At the end of October, 13,000 dogs in Albemarle were licensed. Owners have until Jan. 31 to renew licenses that expire at the end of this month.
Last week, the county Board of Supervisors deferred a vote on a proposed ordinance change for when a dog is prohibited from running at large — or not on a leash or lead. The board preferred making the ordinance different for properties by zoning districts and size, similar to what the county did for homestays.
The proposed change would have required a dog to be on a leash or lead at all times when off its owner’s property, except if it was hunting during season or off-season exercising, participating in field training, in a fenced dog park or is a service dog, in public service training or a working farm dog.
Supervisor Liz Palmer said she knew a lot of ways that people walk their dogs off leash while still remaining in control of the dogs.
“As the owner of a — I’ll brag about my dog — very well-behaved dog, I would be doing some illegal things with this passage myself,” she said.
She said the county was “trying to get the nuisance dogs,” and deal with dogs that are roaming in neighborhoods, barking a lot or going after other animals who are on leash.
“I personally experienced a dog rushing at me the other day, with its owner running down the road behind it, yelling at it, ‘Stop, stop,’ and she assured me it behaved better off leash than it did on,” Supervisor Diantha McKeel said.
Treating the rural areas and development areas differently was not immediately supported by all supervisors.
“It’s an equal protection thing,” said Supervisor Ann H. Mallek. “People who live in the country should have the same rights and access to laws that people in the urban areas do.”
During public comment, Sherry Buttrick, who has hunting dogs, said she was against the proposed ordinance.
“I understand their need in the more urbanized areas, but in the rural areas the [Comprehensive Plan] says we should have a lesser degree of services,” she said. “And there are subdivisions in the rural areas, but as somebody who’s espoused rural preservation for more years than I’d like to think, this is a failing of the system, not a success.”
Representatives from the Keswick Hunt Club and the Farmington Hunt Club also spoke against the proposed changes.
Bob Garland, with the Canterbury Hills neighborhood association, said he was in support of the ordinance.
“I think is probably another good example of both the needs of the increased urbanization of Albemarle County versus the rural areas,” he said.
The board also passed an authorization to schedule a public hearing to change county code pertaining to animals making noise.
The proposed ordinance would eliminate a current exemption for sounds from animals located on parcels five acres or more in size in the rural areas zoning district, where the county code currently exempts rural area properties from enforcement around “frequent or continuous howls, barks and other excessive or continuous sounds by animals.”
A county resident has come to many board meetings and has spoken about her neighbor’s nearby dogs barking incessantly in the rural area.
A public hearing date for that proposed change has not yet been made public.