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Putney tries to straighten out its dog licensing procedures

PUTNEY—In response to resident Wayne Wagenbach’s dismay over the failure of Treasurer Anita M. Coomes to deposit three years of dog license fees [“Audit finds three years of dog license payments,” Town & Village, Jan. 28], and Wagenbach’s urging of the Selectboard to invite Coomes to their April 8 regular meeting for an on-the-record chat, Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard asked Coomes to appear.

Unfortunately, illness precluded Coomes from attending, but Stoddard reported having a conversation with the treasurer to nail down a definition for “timely,” because that’s the schedule Coomes is mandated to follow when depositing fees, such as those for dog licenses, that she has collected from townspeople.

Stoddard says Coomes agreed to “within a week,” adding, “which is not what she’s been doing.”

In Coomes’ defense, Stoddard noted the challenges the treasurer faced when the town incorporated a cash receipts system, where all revenue items are assigned a code for tracking and allocation.

The system was implemented when Coomes was away for an extended period, and upon her return, nobody trained her on it, leaving the treasurer “really gun shy,” says Stoddard, noting the change “didn’t work the way it should have.”

Currently, Stoddard says, “dog fees” come in and go in its own box in the safe, and unless someone requests a receipt, individual payments are not recorded. The contents of the box are then deposited as dog fee money. Stoddard adds that “we’re working to change that,” and “the process has begun” to move dog licensing fees into the new cash receipts accounting system.

“That’s a step in the right direction,” Wagenbach said.

Finding a dog catcher

In Putney’s efforts to find a new Animal Control Officer, and in anticipation of advertising for the position, Cynthia Stoddard asked the Selectboard for guidance on whether and how the town will reimburse for services rendered. The two most likely scenarios: stipend or per-call.

Stoddard and the Selectboard decided to offer a small stipend plus mileage for the position, but it’s “negotiable if the person brings more experience.”

Whoever takes the job will have their hands full.

“About half the dogs in Putney aren’t registered,” Stoddard said, “which causes a huge problem.”

She mentioned a recent dog fight to illustrate the public health and safety concerns with unregistered dogs, especially when they misbehave.

“You have to track down the owner, find out if [the dog] has rabies shots,” Stoddard says, asserting “what that does to a person [who has been bitten] —€• it’s terrible. That anxiety of having to wait to see where [the dog is] registered."

She noted former Animal Control Officer Henry Farnum was “going to start that process of knocking on doors and seeing where the dogs were and issuing violations if the dogs weren’t registered, but that takes time."

With the hiring of a new Animal Control Officer, Stoddard and the Selectboard hope to resume registering all of Putney’s pooches.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #301 (Wednesday, April 15, 2015). This story appeared on page D1.

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