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S.L. COUNTY MAY RESTRAIN SWELLING ANIMAL POPULATION

Puppies and kitties will need the animal equivalent of a social security number if Salt Lake County approves proposed changes in its Animal Control Ordinance.

That's one of several changes to the ordinance proposed by the Animal Services Division to keep better tabs on the pet population for residents in the unincorporated county.Gene Baierschmidt, executive director of the Humane Society of Utah, says the proposed changes "are excellent" and would "significantly reduce the pet overpopulation problem in the county over the next few years."

But pet owners will face a slew of new requirements and higher fees to help the county keep tabs on pets.

The changes would require any pet that is bred, either on purpose or accidentally, to be registered with the county. Cost of a breeders permit: $25.

The litter would have to be registered once it arrives, at a cost of $15. Each pup or kitten would receive an identifying number and "should be identified with a microchip implant" before being adopted by a new owner.

The ID number would have to be included in any newspaper or public notices advertising the pet.

And people who give or sell pets would have to supply the county with names and addresses of individuals who take the animals.

"We want to get a handle on the number of puppies and kitties being produced and where they are going," said Peggy Hinnen, Animal Services director.

The ordinance also would make it illegal to offer pets free or for sale in public places - except by licensed businesses, humane societies and government shelters. In other words, no more youngsters hawking boxes of free pups.

"It's an extremely bad practice because all too often those puppies don't get much farther than the car," Hinnen said. "They get across the parking lot or home and change their mind. We want people to make a conscious choice, because it (owning a pet) is a long-term commitment."

The division also wants residents in the unincorporated county to license cats.

Hinnen said licensing will increase chances that a lost cat is reunited with its owner. Only 2.5 percent of cats picked up are returned home currently. The division locates owners of about 36 percent of the dogs it picks up.

The cost of licensing an unsterilized pet - cat, dog, ferret or other pet - would increase from $15 to $25. Licensing fees for animals that are spayed or neutered will remain the same - $5.

Senior citizens could license unsterilized pets for $15 or sterilized pets for $5.

Other ordinance also would limit residents to a maximum of two adult pets of any one species, and a total of four animals unless they have a kennel or hobbyist license.

Commissioner Mary Callaghan agrees with some revisions in the ordinance but said in some areas "it's gone beyond and is infringing too much on citizens' rights."

The county's Executive Council plans to review the ordinance in early September, then schedule a series of public.