December 31, 2006

did you renew your dog license?

If you lived in Alta, Utah, there's nothing you'd pay for more eagerly.
A Ski Town With 42 Dogs and Many Lonely Dog Lovers

ALTA, Utah, Dec. 30 (AP) — Every January when dog licenses come up for renewal in this ski town, dog lovers go wild with anticipation. They start counting the dogs that have died or moved away with their owners, hoping a few licenses will be available.

To protect the alpine watershed, an ordinance here limits the number of dogs to 12 percent of the human population, with few exceptions. No canine visitors are allowed, even inside cars, and violators can go to jail.

Alta occupies four square miles inside a national forest where an act of Congress left Salt Lake City in charge of the water supply. City and county officers police the canyons, keeping out nonresident and unlicensed dogs to curb bacterial contamination of streams and protect Salt Lake’s drinking water.

For now, the town council keeps the lid at 42 licenses, even though it could add two more dogs under the formula tied to Alta’s population of 370.

“It’s the worst issue I deal with,” said Mayor Tom Pollard, who can issue additional temporary licenses for good cause. “The day after I was elected I got my first call — I hadn’t even gotten to the job. They disguised it as a question about garbage service, then finished with, ‘Can I have a dog?’ ” ... Kali, a dog owned by Alta’s former mayor, Bill Levitt, and his wife, Mimi, died of old age Dec. 4, raising the possibility of an available license. But the Levitts say they are not giving up the license. Under the ordinance, they have six months to find a new dog. Property owners who live in Alta for at least six months of the year get first dibs on the licenses. Any left over are distributed at drawings conducted by a town marshal.

A deputy town marshal, Tom Bolen, said he had heard practically every excuse from visitors caught smuggling dogs. They claimed not to have seen the warning signs or thought they referred to a leash law or believed the ban was only for vicious dogs. Three months into his job, Deputy Bolen said he had issued dozens of warnings to illegal dog walkers, along with two citations. Violations are typically settled in justice court for $65, but repeat offenders risk 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine
Sounds as if Alta, unlike the city I live in, will not make it onto the list of "Best Places to Live" any time soon.

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