MARIETTA - The ability to purchase multi-year dog tags has been available to Washington County residents since Dec. 1, but so far there have been few takers, according to the county auditor's office.
"We've sold five of the new three-year tags and only two of the permanent (lifetime) tags since the beginning of the month," said deputy auditor Holly Webb, adding that a total of nearly 1,800 dog tags had been sold as of Monday. Most of those were one-year tags.
This past year, through Nov. 30, the county sold 11,479 tags.
She said the price of a one-year tag in Washington County remains at $16, while the new three-year tag is $48, and the new lifetime dog tag costs $160.
Webb noted the lifetime tag is non-refundable and only good for the life of the dog for which it is purchased.
"The tags are not transferable from one dog to another," she said.
Some local dog owners think the lifetime license is a good idea.
"I would go for a lifetime tag-that's not really a bad price," said Emilee Schwendeman of Marietta who was exercising her dog, Zoe, at the dog park on Jackson Hill Monday.
Lexi Hausman, also from Marietta, just recently adopted her dog, Bailey, from the local Humane Society of the Mid Ohio Valley shelter.
"I think it would be a lot easier to buy a lifetime license," she said. "It's a better idea than having to go back and buy a new license every year."
But Teresa Hayes, another local dog owner who spearheaded the effort to develop the dog park on Jackson Hill, isn't sold on the lifetime or three-year license idea.
"I'll stay with the one-year license," she said. "The lifetime license is non-transferable, and it would not be good for people who have older dogs."
Hayes noted those dogs are not likely to live long enough for the owners to recapture their full investment. County dog owners have until Jan. 31 to purchase new tags. After that deadline a penalty fee is assessed which doubles the cost of the tags. As a courtesy the county auditor's office mails out reminders to dog owners every year that their dog tags are due.
Auditor Bill McFarland said all 88 Ohio counties were mandated to offer the new multi-year tags by the state legislature as part of the state budget bill passed in June of this year.
"My understanding is that the provision was inserted by the Senate president who thought it would be a good idea that provides a service to county residents," he said.
McFarland said the state mandate has required some modification of the software the county uses to track dog licensing as the current programming is set up for single-year dog tags.
"We also had to purchase three different types of tags, including 2014 tags, and 2016 tags for the licenses that expire in three years, as well as a number of lifetime tags," he said.
McFarland said he's not surprised there hasn't been a rush to purchase the new multi-year tags because dog owners may not want to risk buying a three-year or lifetime license in the event the animal would die before that time.
Washington County dog warden Kelly McGilton said she's had little feedback from dog owners about the new multi-year tags, but one of her main concerns is that many owners do not put the tags on their pets.
"I would estimate 90 percent of the dogs we come in contact with are not wearing tags, although 70 percent of the owners have purchased them," she said. "For some reason they just don't put the tags on their dogs."
McGilton noted not displaying tags on a dog is considered a misdemeanor in Washington County, subject to a $150 fine.