By Aila Boyd

Last Tuesday, the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to adopt amendments to the portion of the county’s code regarding animals and fowl, implementing a lifetime dog license with a one-time fee of $10 for all dogs over the age of four months.

The amendments allow owners 30 days after the dog reaches four months of age or 30 days after coming into possession of a dog four months of age or older in order to obtain a license.

The vote adopting the amendments came following a public hearing, which was authorized at the May Board of Supervisors meeting.

Instead of having annual and three-year dog licenses, the amendments created a lifetime license that will cost $10. Previously, a one-year dog license costs $5 and a three-year license costs $10.

The transition to a lifetime license, Bill Arney, the county treasurer, whose office deals with the licenses, said, will remove the “haste for law-abiding citizens.”

Dr. Richard Bailey, who represents the Fincastle District on the Board of Supervisors, said that the lifetime license is “more user friendly.”

The only way that the lifetime license can be rendered invalid under the amendments is if the dog’s rabies vaccination expires. However, upon the renewal of the dog’s rabies vaccination, the validity of the license will be reinstated.

The change to the county’s code was sparked by legislation from 2017 that the Virginia General Assembly adopted that provided localities with the option of offering lifetime dog licenses. The legislation arose out of a study that the General Assembly authorized that found that the animal licensing process at the time was “burdensome on law-abiding citizens.”

Arney requested the amendments after observing how other counties have enacted lifetime dog licenses. He explained at the May Board of Supervisors meeting that after the General Assembly’s decision, he wanted to wait and see how other counties dealt with the provisions before moving Botetourt County in that direction. Arney reported that the treasurers from five of the counties he spoke with said that the change was well received.

Counties that have enacted similar provisions include Culpeper, Hanover, Madison, Orange, Patrick, Stafford, and York.

Although he originally thought that he would wait until next year before bringing the amendments before the Board of Supervisors, Arney explained that the new software that his department is using will potentially aid in making the transition smoother than it otherwise would have been.

Bailey noted at the May meeting that the one issue he foresaw with the change is that residents might confuse a lifetime license with a lifetime vaccination.

Arney responded that his office will work to create literature on the license process for veterinarian offices to hand out to dog owners.

Dog licenses help promote rabies compliance, provide funding sources for rabies clinics, and offer a way to identify dog owners.

The 2017 legislation left in place the requirement that veterinarians send rabies vaccination forms to local governments and that local governments send out late notices.

The other adopted amendments alter the county’s definition of what a service dog is, which the county noted hasn’t been revised in a major way since the 1988, bringing it up to date with the current Code of Virginia.

The animals and fowl portion of the county code notes that failure to obtain a license is a Class 4 misdemeanor. In addition to any fine imposed for the violation, the court may order confiscation and proper disposition of the dog.