City council discusses dog vaccination, licensing proposal

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 25, 2013

A proposal to better inform city officials about which dogs are licensed or vaccinated for rabies took a step toward eventually becoming law at a Sept. 17 City Council meeting.

The Sterling Heights City Council voted 6-1 to introduce an ordinance that could direct veterinarians to relay dog rabies vaccination data to the city through a Texas-based data company, Pet Data Inc. The ordinance would also set a new fee table for dog licensing. Councilman Paul Smith was the lone opponent.

Under current law, dogs ages 4 months and older that reside in the city for more than 30 days must be licensed.

Councilman Joseph Romano recounted a recent August incident in which a Sterling Heights woman was walking her dog when she and the animal were attacked by a boxer-Labrador retriever mix.

According to police, the woman lost a finger and fingertips, and had to be hospitalized. Officials said the attacking dog had not been licensed, and it hadn’t had its rabies shots on time. The latter meant that the dog had to be euthanized, police said.

“If owners have any care or any love for their animals, they would certainly have the vaccinations done,” Romano said.

In its current form, the proposal would give veterinarians 15 days after the vaccination month to relay reports of any dog rabies vaccinations to Pet Data, and the city would gain access to a database of vaccinated dogs.

In addition, the city would allow dog owners to license their animals for one, two or three years — so long as they can prove that the pets would be covered by vaccinations in that time period with a small grace period for longer-lasting licenses. Previously, the licenses only lasted for a maximum of one year.

Under the new proposal, starting Jan. 1, the fees for spayed or neutered animals would be $8 for one year, $14 for two years and $20 for three years. For non-neutered or non-spayed animals, the charges would be $21, $40 and $59, respectively. Residents who are 60 or older may have their dogs licensed for free, according to officials.

Smith said the licensing costs are too high, given the lack of effort that the city clerk has to perform. Starting this year, the city has contracted its dog licensing procedures to Pet Data.

Smith also protested what he believed might be a burden on veterinarians.

“I can’t imagine how a city would make an ordinance telling a veterinarian how to run his business,” he added.

City Clerk Mark Carufel said about 11,000-12,000 dog licenses are issued in the city. The last time the City Council overhauled its dog licensing rules was in 2011, when it defined what constituted a “potentially dangerous” dog and stiffened penalties for failing to comply with dog licensing guidelines.

City Manager Mark Vanderpool said the city listened to experts and reviewed studies from across the country when it explored the issue.

“There was a strong correlation to responsible dog ownership and licensing,” he said. “City Council’s objective was to increase licensing as much as possible.”

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Taylor wanted clarification on whether the law would make vets responsible for rabies information on dogs living outside of the city.

Carufel and the clerk said the intention was to have it only apply to dogs that reside in the city.

“We can make this clear in the revision when it comes before council at the next meeting,” Carufel said.

The new proposal will have to receive formal adoption at a future City Council meeting before it can take effect.

Learn more about Sterling Heights at or by calling (586) 446-2489.