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To chip or not to chip?

In its second time at the plate, as it were, the proposal by Boulder City Councilmember Cokie Booth to require that pets within BC be microchipped ended up with a lot of people talking about maybe taking a swing at the ball but no one actually doing so.

Booth had tried to bring the subject up once last year when both Mayor Joe Hardy and Councilmember Matt Fox were not in attendance and the remaining members put the discussion off until it could be heard by the entire council.

Introducing the discussion, Booth said, “One thing I’ve noticed, being a dog owner and a dog lover, there are so many dogs that get out of the house and are at large. And a lot of them are small dogs like mine that won’t carry a big tag around their neck. I’ve seen the animal control department posting pictures on Facebook because we had no way of notifying that owner because there was no tag on the dog. What I would like to see is requiring the microchipping of dogs so that eases up that time that animal control has in finding who the owner is. Because, not only do they have to find out who the owner is, they have to feed the dog, take it to the vet if it is injured or sick and then they also have to clean up after that dog. So there is a lot more work than just putting a picture on the Facebook.”

She also noted that there is a problem with some people trying to claim pets that are not actually theirs after pictures have been posted online.

Ann Inabnitt, animal control supervisor, stepped up to the mic and supported that statement.

“Whenever we get a popular breed in, or an overly cute little thing, we do get multiple people trying to claim the dog,” she said. “We just picked up a Maltese today, so I’m sure tomorrow five people will be trying to claim it. “

Microchipping, said Inabnitt, helps prove ownership and it helps animal control to find the owner and if the animal is injured, the owner can make medical decisions instead of animal control doing so.

“Right now, shelters are full, full, full,” she reported, saying that all shelters in the Las Vegas Valley are full and have stopped taking owner surrenders because of the number of strays. “We here in Boulder City are seeing things we have never seen before. Our shelter has been full several times. So, the quicker we can get them home the better. Or, prove who abandoned them because abandonment of an animal is a felony. We got two abandoned animals last night.”

Inabnitt reported that as recently as a decade ago, the shelter saw two abandoned animals in a year and now they are seeing between two and four every week.

She said that pet abandonment is becoming a big issue and that microchipping saves animal control a lot of time.

Clarifying how such a decree would work, Booth asked if it would be administered by requiring an owner to microchip the animal if it has been found at large and is taken to the shelter. Inabnitt replied, “That is what we would like to see happen. We do have frequent flyers here in town that we see quite a bit. Not necessarily the same dog, but the same owner. We would like to see action from the council saying that if an animal is picked up, it is required that it be microchipped within 10 days.”

Inabnitt noted that the shelter does have donated funds that could be used to help offset the cost of microchipping for pet owners. She also said that any pet that leaves the shelter via adoption has been microchipped.

Hardy noted that this is just a preliminary discussion at the request of councilmember Booth.

“I’m not looking for an end-all motion as much as a discussion of how we would like to direct staff,” he said.

After a statement about seniors who may need to remove an animal from their homes because they pose a tripping hazard, Hardy addressed the issue of surrender versus abandonment and asked how someone can “get an animal gone without being arrested for a felony,” Inabnitt said that Boulder City residents can surrender an animal at the shelter but they do have to prove they are a BC resident in order to do so. The shelter is “open-admission”, meaning that they will take the animal as long as they have room and subject to a $10 surrender fee for cats and a $20 fee for dogs.

“Surrender at the shelter is not abandonment,” Inabnitt said. “Taking a dog down to the airport in the middle of the night and just letting it loose, that is abandonment.”

With other members of the council seeming amenable to a change in city code, Steve Walton initially appeared to be a dissenting voice.

“As good as an idea as I think it is (to have pets microchipped), I come up short of wanting to mandate it,” he said. But he then backed off saying that he is OK with requiring a chip if the animal is picked up by animal control as a condition of getting the pet back, which is exactly the approach Booth and Inabnitt were putting forward.

No actual action was taken but Hardy said he was sure that staff could discern by the discussion that took place the direction the council was headed in terms of direction to staff.

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Ron Eland/Boulder City Review

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