Resort Addressing ‘Duplication’ With Dog License Requirement

OCEAN CITY — Convinced it is a duplicated requirement with Worcester County, Ocean City officials this week voted to eliminate the required municipal dog license for local residents.

Last month, 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 license and a dog park permit in Ocean City.

The request originated with the Recreation and Parks Department. Currently, Ocean City requires a license for all pet dogs residing in the city. That license, heretofore, can only be obtained at City Hall. However, the recreation and parks department requested to be able to issue dog permits from Northside Park as well. The license, and more importantly, proof of rabies vaccinations, are required to allow dogs to enter the recently-renovated and expanded city dog park at 94th Street.

Before acting on the Northside Park request last month, the Mayor and Council questioned if the municipal dog license was even necessary considering Worcester County also requires one. Worcester already requires a dog license for pet dogs residing in the county. While the license can be issued by a county department, more often than not they are issued by a pet owner’s vet at the time they receive their vaccinations.

Last month, the Mayor and Council asked City Solicitor Heather Stansbury to go back and research the genesis of Ocean City’s dog license requirement and determine if it was still valid. During Tuesday’s work session, Stansbury returned with the results of her research and laid out some options, including abolishing the municipal dog license requirement altogether.

Stansbury determined the town’s municipal dog license requirement began in 1974 with the establishment of an ordinance ensuring all pet dogs within corporate limits were registered and vaccinated for rabies. In the 1990s, Worcester County began requiring licenses for all dogs in the county, which, of course, includes Ocean City. While the county’s animal control department can issue the licenses at no charge, typically they are distributed through the various veterinarians at the time the dog is vaccinated.

Stansbury said as a result, the town’s municipal dog license served little purpose other than identifying the occasional runaway or other strays. She said most pet owners have their dogs micro-chipped for that purpose, but the Ocean City Police Department’s animal control division sometimes uses the license database to determine to whom and where a lost dog belongs.

“All of this started with a request from recreation and parks to allow town dog licenses to be issued at Northside Park for convenience purposes,” she said. “The question came up why do we need a dog license anyway. I don’t have a great answer why. You only issue about 200 of them a year and there really is no fiscal impact.”

Stansbury laid out several options for the Mayor and Council. The first was keeping the Ocean City dog license in place and allowing them to be acquired from Northside Park as well as City Hall. The second option was to keep the system just as it stands now. The third option was to simply abolish the city’s dog license requirement altogether. After considerable debate, the council voted unanimously on the latter.

“I see this as a duplication,” said Council Secretary Tony DeLuca. “I’ll make a motion to eliminate the municipal dog license requirement. They have to have the Worcester County license and the proof of rabies vaccinations already.”

Councilman Mark Paddack agreed.

“Why are we duplicating this service?” he said. “We’re charging our residents when it isn’t necessary.”

The impetus for the debate centered around easing the requirement for using the renovated dog park at 94th Street. Councilman John Gehrig said that requirement is covered by the county’s license for local residents. Presumably, part-time residents and vacationers have to show proof of rabies vaccinations to get their pets into the dog park as well.

“The dog park pass already requires a proof of vaccination,” he said. “Whatever they do to get the town’s license, they would have to show that to get their pets in the dog park. It’s a little redundant to have the town’s license also.”

The council voted unanimously to move the proposed amendments to the town’s ordinance regarding dogs and licenses to first reading at a future meeting.

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.