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N.J. Township counts dogs door to door

dogcensusState law in New Jersey mandates that local governments count their canine residents, but John Fries, in suburban Haddon Township, is one of only a handful of local government employees doing it.

Under a law that dates to the 1950s, when rabies was a threat to household pets, New Jersey towns are required to conduct the census every two years. But as the rabies threat declined, so has the number of municipalities following the little-known regulation, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In 1980, 91 percent of towns submitted canvases to the state; in 2008, only 32 percent did so, according to health department records.

Some towns say they have better things to do.

“Chesilhurst has so many other problems, the last thing we’re concerned about is a dog census,” Michael Blunt, the mayor of the community near the Pine Barrens said. “The minute you start giving people tickets, you bring hell on yourself.”

Under state rules, if a resident is found to have an unlicensed dog, the town can send out a bill for the license with the threat of a fine for nonpayment.

Fries, clipboard in hand, began his task in October, and expects to finish surveying Haddon Township homes by the end of January.

Requiring owners to license their dogs is the policy in most U.S. cities and towns. But the taking of a door-to-door “dog census” seems unique to New Jersey, the Inquirer reports. In the minority of towns that participate, the census has led to an increase in dog-licensing revenues.

(Philadelphia Inquirer photo by April Saul)