One of the lamest campaigns that I ever conducted was “ACOs looking for RPOs.” I grew weary of being in a profession in which I patrolled the streets for law breakers. I decided to turn things around and began a short-lived campaign to look for responsible pet owners.
My first mistake was putting signage on my vehicle: you cannot expect people to understand an acronym unless it is known to them. Most people quickly figured out what an ACO is, but I had them scratching their heads with RPO. As is human nature, they took the acronym to a bad place.
My second mistake was actually thinking that I could easily find RPOs. Maybe my criteria was too steep. I wanted to do it big, so I had our Mayor to sign a bunch of declarations and had toys, treats, and bags of dog food. I hit the road looking for people walking their currently licensed dog on leash.
The leash part was easy, anytime a dog owner saw the animal control truck driving towards them, they instinctually put the leash on their dog. The dog license was another matter. People did not appear geared to license their dogs. Years later, I found myself writing animal control ordinances that required a dog to be microchipped after having been impounded on numerous occasions to be found without identification.
Most communities have laws that require that a dog (and sometimes cats) to not be released from the shelter without a current license. For shelters that have a veterinarian on staff to give rabies vaccinations, this is an easy task. For shelters without veterinarians, the task isn’t so easy to fulfill.
I had an incident in which the dog owner was so obsentant, after multiple times of failing to take his dog to his veterinarian for a rabies vaccination that I required that he make his veterinarian make a house call at the animal shelter to vaccinate the dog prior to reclaiming his dog; otherwise, he would never had complied.
In the end, my month of searching for an RPO resulted in me finding one person walking their dog on leash with the dog wearing a current dog license. The dog license seems like such a small thing until an animal control officer drives up to a scene of an injured dog that was hit by a car. The animal control officer has to decide if the life of the dog can be saved. Due to budget limitations, most animal control departments do not have the funds to treat every critically injured animals without any known indication of ownership. When the dog is wearing current identification, the animal control officer is relieved of that decision. The dog will be transported to an emergency veterinary clinic and kept stable until the owner can be contacted. The license can be the difference between life and death for their animal, and yet it is only found on five percent of the lost dogs entering animal shelters.