Whitefish dog owners now required to get county license

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Whitefish dog owners now are required to license their dogs through the county.

A recently adopted ordinance by the city of Whitefish turned over its dog licensing to Flathead County. All cities in the county now require dog owners to license their pets through the county.

Cliff Bennett, director of the Flathead County Animal Shelter, said the change really eliminates confusion and simplifies returning lost dogs to their owners. The county has a web-based program that allows for accessing license information to locate the dogs owners day or night, he noted.

“The biggest thing of all is when dogs get brought here our animal control officers have laptops that they can access and you’d be amazed at how many dogs can quickly be returned to their owners,” he said.

Bennett says the goal is for lost dogs to be returned to their owner without ever spending a night in the county shelter. Whitefish Police Department will have access to the dog license information as well, he noted.

“We’ve reduced our length of stay to half of what it used to be because of the system,” Bennett said. “We don’t need the revenue or the work of caring for an extra dog. We’d rather your dog was at your house.”

All dog owners must purchase a license for all dogs over the age of 4 months. New residents must purchase a dog license within 30 days of moving into the county.

Bennett also noted that the Whitefish Police will often temporarily hold dogs until the county animal control officer can transport the dog to the county shelter. He encourages anyone who has a lost dog that has been missing a short time — an hour or two — to contact the Police Department at 863-2420.

The county has “lifetime” dog licenses that can be purchased online at a cost of $45 or at the county animal shelter. The license expires when a dog’s current rabies vaccination expires.

Owners must fill out an application and are required to provide a copy of the veterinarian’s rabies certificate, which can be faxed to the shelter at 752-1546 or emailed to fcas@flathead.mt.gov.

Failure to license a dog in the county is a misdemeanor. Anyone convicted of not licensing a dog, faced a fine up to $35 for the first offense, and a fine up to $100 for the second offense. Conviction of three or more offenses can result in a fine up to $250.

Dog licensing has been required in all parts of Flathead County since 1987.

The animal shelter is located at 225 Cemetery Road in Kalispell. Hours are Tuesday through Friday noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The shelter is closed on Sunday and Monday.

For questions about the license application, call 752-1310 or email fcas@flathead.mt.gov.

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