Before late fees become applicable, Centralia dog owners are urged to get their 2024 dog licenses from the Centralia Police Department.
While cats can be licensed as well, it is not required as it is for dogs within city limits.
Centralia Police Chief Stacy Denham told The Chronicle the program allows officers to more quickly reunite dogs and their owners if the animals are picked up as strays.
Licensing fees start at $10 for dogs that are spayed or neutered and $30 for dogs that aren’t fixed. They are valid from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. Proof of the animal’s up-to-date rabies vaccination is required.
Upon providing documentation, approved low-income, disabled or senior residents can get a lifetime license for only $5.
Anyone with a dog within city limits is required to get a 2024 license before the deadline, Feb. 1, or they may face an additional $20 fee on top of the licensing fee, Denham said.
License applications can be found online or at the Centralia Police Department’s headquarters in Centralia City Hall.
Though licensing and late fees do exist, Denham said they don’t really generate any revenue and often the department will waive the late fee as long as the owner of an animal they pick up does get their dog licensed.
“There’s a lot of cases where people just didn’t know, or are facing financial hardship, and so we don’t charge them the penalty, we just charge them the licensing fee because we just want their dogs to be licensed,” Denham said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Denham said his officers didn’t pick up that many stray dogs. During the pandemic, many people got new pets to help deal with the isolation, and now — this year especially, Denham said — many are learning the hard way that sometimes pets escape or get lost.
“Historically, we used to go a couple weeks without a dog. Maybe a big week would be three or four,” Denham said. “Now we constantly have up to three, four, sometimes up to 10 dogs, regularly now.”
Because of the uptick in stray dogs, Centralia police officers are now having to devote a lot more time and resources to take care of the animals they find.
“We’re spending an immeasurable amount of time trying to find the owners, and it seems like we’re just getting more and more dogs. If you do this a couple times a week, it’s not a big deal. If you’re doing it daily, now it becomes a bigger problem,” Denham said.
Recently, two dogs were abandoned outside the Centralia Police Department’s makeshift kennel at a city-owned property on Mellen Street. The kennel was built after the Lewis County Animal Shelter stopped accepting stray dogs captured by Denham’s department.
“They were skittish, too. We don’t know what happened to them before they were dropped off,” Denham added.
Along with the county’s shelter, Denham said shelters between Portland and Seattle are all full and no longer accepting dogs his officers pick up.
“We have nine kennels now … and we regularly have 10 or 11 dogs at one time,” Denham said.
Additionally, some rescued animals are in need of veterinary care, which the department does provide.
The department can now charge owners for that care, thanks to an ordinance recently passed by the Centralia City Council.
The ordinance was passed last month because, with more dogs being picked this year, the department has been losing money and needed a way to recover the increasing amounts of veterinarian bills.
Denham added he is an animal lover himself and wants to do everything he can to avoid having to put a dog down.
While some people do get their dogs microchipped, some prefer not to. Denham said even those who opt for a chip must license their dogs.
Once a dog gets a microchip, the information on the chip can only be changed by the company that made it.
Since city dog licenses need to be updated annually, if someone moves, their address will be updated with the city when they renew the license and they don’t have to worry about getting the chip updated.
The Centralia Police Department does have a chip scanner.
To apply for a Centralia dog license, visit https://www.cityofcentralia.com/284/Dog-Licensing for the application and instructions, or visit the Centralia Police Department at 118 W. Maple St. in downtown Centralia.
For more information, call the Centralia Police Department at 360-330-7680.