Survey shows few dogs licensed in RI

If you have a dog and live in Rhode Island, chances are it's not licensed.

The Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told NBC 10 it's conducted a survey of towns and cities across the state, and the result is that surprisingly few dogs are licensed.

Fees for dog licenses range from about $5 to $15 per year, depending on the town or city. The SPCA estimates there are at least 120,000 dogs in Rhode Island, but there are fewer than 25,000 with licenses - just one in every five dogs.

For Jereme Beller, the health and safety of his rescue dog, Nyla, are important. That's why he says he licenses her with the town each year.

"God forbid she ever got away from me, I would hope the system would work and someone would read the tags and ultimately she would come home," Beller said.

State law requires owners to license their dogs annually. To do so, dogs must have a current rabies vaccination.

In Providence, a city of nearly 180,000 people, only 564 dogs are licensed. That's fewer licensed dogs than in Jamestown, an island of just 5,000 people, which has 601 licensed dogs.

"I don't know if you have to go knocking at doors and saying, 'Hi, do you have a dog?'" said Dr. E.J. Finocchio, president of the RISPCA. "I don't know how the law can be enforced. I think people should come forward."

Finocchio said his goldendoodle, Molly, is a good example. Molly's registration is current in the town of Burrillville, and she's also current on her rabies vaccination.

If a dog's rabies vaccination is not current and the dog is bit by an unknown source, the dog must be quarantined in an approved facility for six months at the owner's expense or euthanized.

Finocchio said there are several reasons people give for why they don't license their dogs.

"You've got four dogs, we're only allowed three, you've got to get rid of one of your dogs," Finocchio said.

Other reasons include out-of-date vaccinations and living in a place that doesn't allow pets.

Pet owners told NBC 10 it's also a financial issue.

"I'm part-time, can't afford it. My dog is in great health, sees a vet," one woman told NBC 10.

That's frustrating for pet owners like Beller.

"We're trying to follow the laws and do everything right and it just gives other dogs a bad name," Beller said.

The RISPCA said while towns and cities are missing out on more than $750,000 statewide by not collecting on dog licenses, it says it's more important as a way to track rabies vaccinations.