Around F.C., News

Dog Licenses Help City Maintain Safe, Productive Environment

The City of Falls Church, like many surrounding localities, currently employs a dog licensing system that needs to be renewed every three years, the sale of which is contingent upon the “presentation of a certificate showing the dog to be currently vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian,” as according to Falls Church City code.

Jody Acosta, Falls Church City Treasurer, detailed further that the price per dog license depends on whether the dog has been “fixed,” i.e., “spayed or neutered.”

“It’s $5 if the dog has been fixed [and] $10 if not.” As a function of the City’s workings, Acosta said dog licenses are “not a big revenue generator” as one “can’t really ensure compliance.” However, the City does what it can. The Treasurer’s office receives a list “of everyone who got a rabies vaccine” for their dog within the locality, which the office then matches up “against the licenses list.” Afterward, the City sends out a notice to those who have yet to register their dog.

Neighbors gather every morning to walk their pooches together. (Photo: Sue Johnson.)

“I feel like most people will respond…some don’t.” Acosta explained that “we keep trying to get new ways for people to comply” with the dog licensing requests. Regarding existing licenses, Acosta says “most people are good about getting renewals,” the ones who are “already registered [and] compliant.” When asked what the main deterrent might be for those residents who fail to get a license, Acosta explained it’s most likely not the fee itself. “I feel like the fee’s pretty minor…most people can afford the five dollars.”

“People forget [about] it for a while, or they move in and they just never know” about the dog license requirement. The practice itself helps to keep dog owners responsible for their pets. As stated on the City’s website, “Falls Church does not currently have areas designated where dogs can run freely,” thus it’s important for owners to be more aware of their dog and its impact on the community.

“It is…against the law to allow your dog to run loose on city school grounds, city parks and privately owned areas such as cemeteries…It is against the law for any owner, keeper, or walker of a dog to allow a dog to leave excrement on property other than his own.” The dog licensing stipulation helps minimize the presence of dog excrement as well as of barking or other sounds that may pose a public nuisance to others. “All dogs must have their city dog license securely attached to a collar. It must be worn at all times when the animal is off the owner’s property.”

Joseph Sautner, the Animal Control Officer for the City, stated that part of the benefit of having dog licenses is helping to locate a pet if “the dog were to get lost and picked up by an officer.” It is a way to help streamline the process of finding and properly relocating a lost dog. Acosta touched upon the “lifetime license,” used in some localities, which costs $50 and does not need to be renewed, like the currently-used license in the City.

However, both types require the dog owner to keep his or her pet up-to-date with the required rabies shots. “People are really lobbying for that,” says Acosta. She also stated that the City has been “thinking about introducing” the lifetime license “sometime next year,” but there’s no definite information on that yet. If put into effect, the lifetime license would “replace the 3-year license.”

Even though the compliance rate for dog licenses isn’t as high as would be preferred, it is a safety measure that appears to be more crucial now, as dog license applications “went through the roof” at one point, following the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Acosta attributes this to the change in social norms and how “everybody was working in their yard and getting a dog,” especially during the height of lockdown in 2020.

When asked about cats and whether there’s a requirement for owners to procure a license for their feline friend, Acosta said “they’re allowed,” according to City code, “but there’s no ordinance” for it. However it must be noted that rabies shots are a state requirement for both dogs and cats. For those owners who have yet to apply for a dog license, Acosta shared that “we always keep dog biscuits on hand at the Treasurer’s office.”

A dog license can be paid for and obtained in person at the Treasurer’s office during regular business hours, Monday — Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. — 5 p.m. For more information, visit fallschurchva.gov.