Pets

Wichita has backlog in dog license processing

The city is about two months behind in processing dog licenses, a problem that concerns City Manager Robert Layton for two reasons.

First, that means Wichita's tracking of animals — from where pit bulls live to whether dogs have been vaccinated for rabies — is two months behind.

"We don't have the information we need about the animals," Layton said.

Second, he said: "We have idle cash sitting around. It's not a proper use of the funds that are coming in to the city, and we need to follow sound business practices."

Layton didn't know about the backlog until The Eagle asked the city about it.

"I wasn't aware of the problem until today, and I'm disappointed in that, too," Layton said last week.

City leaders estimate that about $36,000 in fees hasn't been processed.

Dog licenses range in price. The fee is $15 if a pet is spayed or neutered and microchipped and the owner has a fenced yard. The fee is $18 if a pet is spayed or neutered and the owner has a fenced yard. If the pet is not spayed or neutered and microchipped and the owner doesn't have a fenced yard, the fee is $46.

A staff shortage was the biggest reason for the backlog, Layton said.

One position in licensing, which is part of the finance division, was eliminated during city budget cuts, and there is at least one vacancy, he said.

"We did not take appropriate actions to temporarily move people over to cover that staffing problem," he said. "They did do that a week or two ago and they're starting to dig out. In my mind we should have done that quicker."

The backlog also means that if someone were to be bitten by a dog whose license hadn't been processed, the city wouldn't be able to determine whether the animal had been vaccinated against rabies.

"If the problem weren't there, it wouldn't take as much time for animal control officers to investigate," said Joe Pajor, assistant director of public works.

A license is required for every dog. Pajor emphasized that dog owners whose licenses haven't been processed won't be fined for not having one.

Dog owners pay for licenses either directly to the city or through their veterinarian when their pet is vaccinated against rabies.

Linda Crockett, a Wichita resident who wanted a full ban on pit bulls, said the backlog concerns her because the city might not know about all such dogs.

"I would think they should be able to keep up with who has a pit bull and who does not. If they are behind on licensing, they don't know," said Crockett, who said she has felt threatened at times by a neighbor's dogs.

New regulations on pit bulls go into effect Jan. 1.

The major provisions of the new ordinance:

* Require pit bull owners to sterilize their dogs.

* Require a breeder's license if an owner wants to keep more than two pit bulls.

* Require pit bulls to be implanted with an identifying electronic microchip.

The council made an exemption to the sterilization requirement for current pit bull owners who show their dogs in legitimate dog shows.

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