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June 20, 2013

Clerks must hound delinquent pet owners

Clerks have to hound delinquent pet owners

The deadline has come and gone. The one-month grace period has passed, too. But thousands of dog owners in Southern New Hampshire still haven’t registered their dogs.

Nudging, nagging and knocking is a spring ritual in some area towns. They have to be, well, quite dogged to bring pet owners in line.

Newton Deputy Town Clerk Cheryl Saunders has been busy chasing down delinquent owners.

“I’ve spent the last two or three days calling people,” she said. “I must have made at least 400 phone calls.”

But, Saunders said, that’s the only chance she will give residents to pay up.

“It’s my only warning,” she said. “I tell them they need to come out as soon as possible.”

The phone calls worked. In the last week, the number of unlicensed dogs dropped from 400 to 188.

“You will always get the ones that are not too happy about me calling,” Saunders said. “They’ll get mad and say they’ll just go to court.”

If residents still don’t pay, then it’s time to get the police involved.

“The list will go to police next week,” Saunders said. “Then they will physically deliver the fines to people.”

Fines vary from town to town. Newton charges $25 for each dog, while Londonderry fines $30. In Plaistow, the fine is $50. State statute sets the fine for a delinquent dog at $25, but towns may increase that fine, with $50 maximum they can charge.

It’s still not much, but it’s significantly more than the $6.50 to $9 residents would have paid to license their pets on time. Many towns give senior citizens a break. In Salem, for example, the fee is just $2.

Despite her 400 phone calls and a delinquent list still nudging the 200 mark, Saunders said this year is better than 2012.

“We had an unusual amount of people have to be notified by police last year,” she said. “But normally people are pretty good.”

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