EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 19, 2013

Delinquent N.H. dog owners could pay more

Owners could see costs rise for unlicensed pets

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — DERRY — Owners could pay more for failing to license dogs under a bill a Derry legislator is sponsoring to save towns money.

State law caps at $5 the amount towns can recover from civil notices arising from an owner’s failure to license a dog.

But the law is failing to keep up with rising postal expenses.

“Postage went up,” said Rep. Jim Webb, R-Derry. “Now it is costing a town $6 to $7” using registered mail.

Webb’s bill would let towns collect for whatever they expend.

The Legislature wouldn’t have to revisit the postage issue, no matter what the postal service does.

“This would solve the problem forever,” he said.

Derry Town Clerk Denise Neale said about 300 such notices went out to owners via registered mail this year, about 500 last.

Neale told Webb the mailings cost $6.11. With the town’s ability to recover the cost capped at $5, that means the town is having to spend $1.11 per letter or about $300 to $500 the last two years.

Derry has more than a few dogs to track.

“We have 4,950 licensed dogs,” she said.

The town first tries to call or email owners, Neale said.

It costs up to $10 in Derry to license a dog. Seniors get a discount for their first dog. Failing to license a dog can result in a $25 fine and subject owners to late fees of $1 a month.

“It’s not expensive until you don’t do it,” Neale said.

In Pelham, Town Clerk Dorothy Marsden estimates there are about 1,600 dogs and only about 200 owners who typically fail to license their pets.

Marsden said the town has refrained from using registered mail in the past, instead sending a simple reminder notice.

“We seem to have had pretty good luck,” getting people to license dogs, she said.

But Pelham may use registered mail in the future, she said, so Webb’s bill would be helpful.

Salem Town Manager Keith Hickey said the community has 3,602 dogs and recently sent out 691 notices to delinquent dog owners.

“Right now, it’s costing us more than $5 in postage to send a certified letter,” Hickey said. “If the idea is to recoup the costs the town is incurring to send the mail, I think this seems reasonable.”