New Ipswich police serve 180 dog notices

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A recent Facebook post by the New Ipswich Police Department has highlighted the importance of annually licensing one’s dog. 

Police Chief Timothy Carpenter wrote on June 26 that approximately 180 dogs in town had yet to be registered — a sizable uptick, according to Town Clerk Jessica Olson —  requiring the town’s police department to deliver civil forfeitures, a document that carries court action if the the dog is not licensed within 15 days of receiving. 

“We usually don’t have that many unregistered dogs,” said Olson, who said there are about 1,000 dogs in town that she is aware of. “There are so many times where people just forget to do it.”

Every dog four months or older must be annually licensed in the town it resides in by April 30, according to RSA 466. Prior to the dog being licensed, the owner must vaccinate the dog against rabies and provide proof to the town.

If the owner of a dog doesn’t license their dog, towns in New Hampshire have the ability to issue a civil forfeiture, which carries additional fines and penalties on top of the state-mandated fees for licensing a dog, which ranges between $4.50 and $7 per dog.

RSA 466:13 says an additional $25 fine is to be assessed, with up to a $50 fine resulting from a district court case if the forfeiture is not made to the town within 15 calendar days of receiving the notice. RSA 466:14 adds that warrants can also authorize a local law enforcement officer to seize the dog if it isn’t licensed in time. 

Olson said New Ipswich’s police officers deliver the forfeitures because the town doesn’t have an animal control officer and she doesn’t have the estimated $2,000 in her budget needed to send each letter certified mail. Prior to having police deliver civil forfeitures, Olson said she sends out a renewal notice in March and a late notice in May. 

“It’s definitely an education process,” said Lt. Michael Abel. “The people we’ve encountered generally don’t realize the date or say it slipped their mind.”

Abel said the department doesn’t track how much time is spent delivering the forfeitures, saying that an officer will spend an hour or two in their down time to deliver them to each doorstep. Abel did not comment about whether he thought it was more costly for the police department to deliver the forfeitures, saying a study has never been completed. 

Jaffrey Town Clerk Kelly Rollins said she has also noticed an uptick in unlicensed dogs this year — about 80 this year versus about 20 to 25 last year — attributing at least part of the situation to how busy her office has been this year. 

Rollins said the Jaffrey Police Department has yet to start delivering civil forfeitures, as she is working to call everyone one more time to give them a last chance. 

Jaffrey Police Chief Bill Oswalt said ensuring that the registered dog list is up to date is important, as it can help the department in dealing with a lost dog or dog bite scenario. He said it also serves as a positive public health initiative as it ensures that dogs have been vaccinated against rabies. 

Oswalt said it is the department’s practice to try to get in touch with the owner in order to talk with them about why the dog wasn’t licensed. Oswalt said that sometimes people listed don’t own the dog anymore, or the dog may have died.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.