Ellen Carlson, Abbott Carlson (12), Henrik Carlson (15) and Michael Carlson (not pictured), walk with their family dog, Ari, at Sycamore Dog Park. Ari was adopted by the Carlson family shortly after the start of the pandemic.

Last March, the campaign for a family dog launched by Ben Stapleton’s two daughters paid off.

They adopted Sandy, an 8-year-old boxer mix who has become a member of the family, as the community shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. Sandy came to the family with some health concerns, and Stapleton said taking care of their pet allowed his family to focus on her care and propelled them to enjoy the outdoors more.

“It has helped us immeasurably to get through the pandemic,” Stapleton said of caring for a pet.

Vivan Obarski adopted Chihuahua mix Britt, who she described as a petite Brittany spaniel, last February. Like Sandy, Obarski said Britt encourages her and her two daughters, ages 5 and 13, to spend time outdoors.

Britt has kept the family from dwelling on the often bleak state of affairs during the pandemic.

“With any pet you get pulled out of your head and focus on the now and where you are,” Obarski said.

From left, Emily Stapleton and Sandy

At the start of the pandemic, there was a surge in adoptions and fostering, though the Associated Press reported that the initial spike leveled off. Amy Good, the Dane County Humane Society’s director of development and marketing, previously told the Cap Times that adoption demand remains high.

Britt

Lauren Wojtasiak, the executive director of Madison’s Underdog Pet Rescue said the last year has been “wild.” The rescue far outpaced its goal at the start of 2020 to hit 100 adoptions each month.

“By the time June came around, we had almost doubled our number of foster homes that were active and we were adopting out 200 plus (each month),” said Wojtasiak, noting they had 270 adoptions in June.

But just how many new beloved pets have joined homes across Madison is more difficult to determine.

Tracking pet licenses, required for dogs and cats in the city, could be one way to get at the number, but John Hausbeck, environmental health services supervisor with Public Health Madison & Dane County, said a very low percentage of people purchase licenses for their animals despite the municipal rule. Dogs are also required by the state to be licensed.

“It’s been very frustrating,” Hausbeck said.

According to data from the city, pet owners registered 4,353 new dogs and 297 cats in 2020. That’s up from the 3,790 new dogs in 2019, with about the same — 299 — new cat registrations. License renewals for dogs decreased from 12,851 in 2019 to 12,686 last year, and they also decreased for cats from 1,091 in 2019 to 1,032 in 2020.

According to data from the city, pet owners registered 4,353 new dogs and 297 cats in 2020. That’s up from the 3,790 new dogs in 2019, with about the same — 299 — new cat registrations. License renewals for dogs decreased from 12,851 in 2019 to 12,686 last year, and they also decreased for cats from 1,091 in 2019 to 1,032 in 2020.

But Hausbeck said this data should not be used to determine how many more animals are living in the community year over year. The number of cats and dogs in Madison is likely much higher.

According to a formula provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the estimated number of cat-owning households in Madison is over 29,845 and the number of dog-owning households over 66,700.  

The AVMA warns that the formulas provide an approximate number and assume similar demographics and rates of pet ownership locally compared to national, state and regional demographics and rates of pet ownership. The formulas use sample survey data and should not be considered 100% accurate. 

Prior to the pandemic, Hausbeck said Public Health was building up efforts to increase awareness of pet licensing and why it’s important. Sometimes the cost of the license — $20 or $25 in Madison, depending on whether a pet is spayed or neutered — is a deterrent.

“We deal with a lot of situations where people look at the government charging us for this thing or that thing and people feel like, ‘I’ve paid enough already,’” Hausbeck, noting that revenue from licensing fees supports services at the Humane Society’s shelter. “We’re trying to help explain well this is why we do it.”

Fees and the cat license requirement varies by municipality.

Dog licensing began when rabies was more of a concern, Hausbeck said, but there are other reasons why pet owners should license their dogs and cats, especially if they’re prone to wander.

“If a dog is running loose, they have a license, we can identify the owner and we can get the dog back to the owner,” Hausbeck said. “Same with cats.”

Checking who licensed a pet is one of the only ways to determine ownership in case of a dispute. Annual renewals also help ensure animals are staying up-to-date on their vaccinations. Licenses are also required to obtain dog park permits, which was a consideration for Stapleton with Sandy.

Source : madison

Abigail Becker

Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal. 

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