Council Tables Dog License Code Change Amendment

OCEAN CITY — Proposed changes to the town’s dog-licensing policy and procedures were tabled this week after questions were raised if dog-licensing in the resort was even necessary.

The Mayor and Council had before them proposed changes to the town’s ordinances regarding dogs and licenses. The proposed amendments would eliminate some of the arcane language in the ordinance regarding certain fees, but most importantly, they would streamline the rather confusing process for obtaining a dog park permit and a dog license in Ocean City.

City Solicitor Heather Stansbury explained pet dogs that reside in Ocean City must have a permit to use the recently renovated dog park at 94th Street, but also a dog license issued by the city. The proposed amendment would streamline the permit and license process.

“This had its genesis when you were renovating the dog playground,” she said. “The major change is currently, you get the permit for the dog park from recreation and parks, but get the dog license from City Hall. This adds Northside Park as an alternative license point-of-sale location.”

Stansbury said the code change regarding permits and licenses for dogs would eliminate a step from the process.

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“It was confusing,” she said. “With this change, you will be able to get the license from recreation and parks. You used to have to drive downtown.”

The proposed amendments would also eliminate some old fees and charges related to dogs that have been on the books for decades, fees related to impounding or boarding dogs, for example, that are no longer valid.

“It also eliminates some of the fees you haven’t been charging,” said Stansbury. “There is no point in having them in there if you don’t charge them. It was just a dollar here and a dollar there.”

Stansbury explained dogs that reside in Ocean City also hold a license from Worcester County, typically issued by a veterinarian, ensuring the pet is up to date on its shots and rabies vaccinations, for example.

“A Worcester County dog license is required,” she said. “They ensure dogs have their rabies vaccination and are up to date on their shots, for example.”

Councilman John Gehrig questioned why the town needed a specific section in the code regarding dogs and licenses if the county already regulates it.

“Why do we need an ordinance if the county has its own provisions?” he said.

Councilman Mark Paddack agreed and suggested putting the proposed changes on the back burner to further explore the county’s policy.

“I’d like to table this to a work session,” he said. “We might not need to duplicate this ordinance.”

The cost of the town dog license is $5 and the town issues about 200 each year. Gehrig pointed out the license only applies to dogs that reside in the resort, and not those brought by their owners on vacation.

“Visiting dogs aren’t required to have an Ocean City license, presumably because they have a license from wherever they are from,” he said. “The resident dogs get their licenses from their vets, and all of the vets are out in the county.”

City Manager Doug Miller agreed with Gehrig’s assertion a specific Ocean City dog license could be eliminated if Worcester County had its own licensing process in place.

“To the councilman’s point, we just might want to say that all dogs have to have a Worcester County dog license,” he said. “If you have a Worcester County dog license, it shows the dog has all of its rabies vaccinations.”

Stansbury said there are few occasions when the dog licensing requirement is actually enforced.

“You do have a requirement for a dog license,” she said. “How that would be enforced is the question. It would probably be enforced if something were to go awry like a dog bite or something like that.”

Stansbury said if the council chose to table the proposed code amendments, she would look into the issues and how the county handles dog licenses and bring it back for further consideration and discussion. The council voted unanimously to table the proposed ordinance amendments.

“This has been on the books since 1972,” she said. “If there is a desire to eliminate that section, we can explore that.”

For her part, Recreation and Parks Department Director Susan Petito said she did not know the intricacies of the county versus the city dog license policy. She said the main purpose of the proposed amendments from her department’s standpoint was to make getting the dog park permit and the dog license a one-stop-shopping proposition.

“For us, our purpose at recreation and parks is to make it easier for our citizens,” she said.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.