TOWNSEND -- Dog owners have an extra item in that unavoidable list containing death and taxes: licensing their best friend each year.

Pet parents living in Townsend might even get a call from the town clerk's office reminding them of that obligation.

There is a special benefit to registering in a timely fashion. If you do remember to license your pet early enough, you just might find yourself living with the #1 dog in town.

Every dog registered before Feb. 1 is automatically entered into the contest. Sue Funaiole, the town clerk, will pick a tag number on Feb. 1 to determine the top dog.

The winner is invited to the next Board of Selectmen meeting to receive the honor.

"We've been very lucky the last two years. They were very well-behaved dogs," Funaiole said.

The honoree receives a fleece blanket, made by Funaiole herself. Town businesses provide prizes too, she said.

"It'll be fun," she said.

There is a practical reason for encouraging dog owners to register their animals on time.

The contest makes people more aware of the time frame. Once the last day of February has passed, the late fees and fines start to add up, she said.

Owners must show proof that the dog has a current rabies vaccination. Prior to March 1, a license costs $6 for a spayed or neutered dog and $11 for other dogs.

The fees add up quickly. Registering March 1 or later adds a $5 late fee. Register on May 1 or later and you are looking at an additional $25 fine.


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"We can go and look for people," Funaiole said.

The office prints out late letters and sends them to people who registered animals the previous year and failed to register on time the following year.

When April rolls around, the town clerk's office will sometimes call any scofflaw dog owners and "say hey, the $25 fee is coming up," Funaiole said.

It is a difficult time for the town clerk to take on extra responsibilities though.

"We're getting ready for Town Meeting and elections," she said.

A dog license application is available on the town's website, www.townsend.ma.us.

A few winter safety reminders from Mary Letourneau, the animal control officer:

* Be careful using ice melt. Chemicals and rock salt can irritate paws. The animal could get nauseous if it licks the toxins off. Pet-safe chemicals are clearly marked.

* Do not leave your animals exposed to the weather.