Dog owners in Franklin County will get two extra months to buy required licenses for their canines under a pilot project by Franklin County Auditor Michael Stinziano.

The deadline for the annual registrations will be pushed back from Jan. 31 to March 31 in 2020 and 2021 – a move officials hope will spur greater compliance. The county commissioners unanimously approved the measure Oct. 29, according to Tyler Lowry, the commissioners’ spokesman.

“The current system has continued to see, unfortunately, dwindling numbers,” Stinziano said.

All dogs that are at least 3 months old are required to be licensed, and those at least 4 months must have current rabies vaccinations. Among other benefits, the tags help ensure lost dogs can be reunited with their owners quickly.

Residents registering their animals by the deadline pay $18 for an annual license for spayed or neutered and certain other dogs or $35 for those not altered. Three-year and permanent tags also are available. The fees involved generally double if purchased after the deadline.

Proceeds from the license sales help fund the Franklin County Dog Shelter & Adoption Center.

Compliance has been on a mostly downward trend in recent years. More than 108,700 dogs were registered in 1997, compared to 88,534 last year. Fewer than 93,000 of an estimated 277,000 pet dogs have been licensed this year, according to statistics compiled by the auditor’s office.

The auditor’s office has worked to improve those results, including an expansion this year of its annual “Me & My Pal” drawing contest, with artwork submitted by children to be featured in a 2020 calendar. Details are online at franklincountyauditor.com.

State law allows the deadline extension for licensing.

Stinziano said officials would gauge the effectiveness of the end-of-March deadline over the next two years to determine whether to make the change permanent.

mkovac@dispatch.com

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