Ancram has bone to pick with dog owners

ANCRAM—Is it possible that the 1,573 residents of this town only own 40 dogs?

It could be that Ancramites just prefer cats or gerbils as animal companions.

But town officials think the number of dogs living here with humans is not adequately represented by the mere 40 dog licenses on file with the town clerk, so they are considering hiring someone to go out there and do a canine count.

The matter came up for discussion at the October 16 Town Board meeting while the board was contemplating what to spend money on in the 2015 budget. Town Supervisor Art Bassin told the board that town Animal Control Officer Wes Powell gave him an estimate of $1,850 to complete the task. That would be in addition to the $4,120 the town pays Mr. Powell annually to deal with its animal control issues. Councilman Chris Thomas suggested it might be cheaper to hire a college student to do it.

Mr. Bassin said there would be added value in having Mr. Powell do the counting because that way he could introduce himself to people, get to know them and they would know who he is in case they ever have to call him. Mr. Powell would also manage the count, keep records and follow through with the process, whereas a college student would not, said the supervisor.

The town may have up to 500 unlicensed dogs, but there’s just no way of knowing without the count, Mr. Bassin said.

The idea behind the count is not just to find out how many Rovers and Spots are sniffing around out there, but to get them licensed. Supervisor Bassin frequently sends out townwide email alerts about lost or found dogs. If a dog has a license, its owner may more easily be located and it will be known that the dog has had its rabies shot. The town spends $1,000 annually on fees when lost dogs are taken to the animal shelter.

Also, dog licenses bring in revenue for the town. A license for a spayed or neutered dog costs $6 annually, un-neutered dogs, $16.

When the last dog census was done is not known for sure, but it is believed that Keith Morey, who was the dog warden at the time, and his wife, Anna, who was his deputy, did it sometime back in the 1980s when Gerry Simons was supervisor and Joan Dwy was a judge.

Reached by phone this week, Mr. Morey said he and his wife went out equipped with lists of registered voters and the names of people who had purchased dog licenses in the past. Still they found many new homes had cropped up and it often wasn’t clear whether someone lived in the Town of Ancram or the Town of Gallatin. A driveway could start in Ancram, but the house at the end of that driveway could be in Gallatin.

Mr. Morey said they went out to count dogs on weekdays and weekends so they could reach second home owners. If they found someone with a dog, they kept a record of whether it was licensed. If it wasn’t, they informed them they had 30 days to go to the town clerk to get the license or be served a ticket to appear in court.

Mr. Morey said one woman told him she didn’t understand why her dog had to be licensed since it never went out of the house. After Mr. Morey served one man a court summons for not getting his dog licensed in the prescribed time, the man ordered Mr. Morey off the property and told him never to come back.

At that point the matter was turned over to the sheriff, he said.

Mr. Morey said he doesn’t remember how many dogs he counted back then, but said he was paid for the miles he travelled while doing the count, which was part of his job as dog warden.

Irene Dietter counted dogs along with her husband, Avery “Prope” Dietter, sometime in the late 1970s when Ken Hamm was supervisor from 1976 to 1979. Mr. Dietter said the process was “interesting” but never very accurate. It was not unusual for people known to have dogs to say they did not have any or for a homeowner to claim they had no dog, though one could be heard barking in the background. “Oh, I’m just dog-sitting for the relatives,” was a popular excuse, Mr. Dietter said.

He knew he was getting the truth about the number of dogs in the household when a child answered the door, said Mr. Dietter, who noted that parents sometimes seemed less than pleased with their child’s honesty. The Dietters say they were paid according to how many people showed up to get dog licenses after their visit.

Current Dog Control Officer Powell said by phone this week, he will come to the November 20 board meeting to give the town board a rundown of his dog enumeration procedure. Before he starts, a notice will be placed in the newspaper letting residents know he is coming. Beginning in January, he will knock on doors and let residents know it is a state law that dogs be licensed and they have five days to do that or get a ticket to appear in court and pay a fine. People who don’t show up for a license or a court appearance run the risk of receiving a court summons for failure to appear.

Mr. Powell, an animal control officer for the past 31 years, has enumerated dogs in Hudson, New Lebanon and Copake. He said the most frequent excuse he hears is, “I didn’t know my dog had to be licensed.” People often think just getting their dog vaccinated against rabies is enough, said Mr. Powell.

The count will take “months and months” to complete and it will pay off for the town, he said.

Perhaps Supervisor Bassin should send out an email alert saying: Attention Ancram dogs, sit up (or roll over) and be counted!

To contact Diane Valden email .

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