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Lack of pet license puts owner in the doghouse

Animal control officers cited Edward Archuleta for not licensing his beloved dog, Buddy, and that was followed by a warrant after he didn’t show up for his court date. The city would no longer require residents to license their companion pets under a pending budget proposal. (Courtesy KOAT-TV)

If you own a pet, there is an 80% chance you’re breaking the law.

You could be forced to pay a fine, be thrown in jail, or as Target 7 has learned, have a warrant out for your arrest and not even know it.

The city of Albuquerque is now trying to get rid of the law that has some scratching their heads, wondering why it was on the books in the first place.

Edward Archuleta’s terrier mix, Buddy.

Edward Archuleta is one of them.

Because of not licensing his terrier mix, Buddy, Archuleta is a fugitive from justice.

“I don’t see why they should go to that length to issue a warrant for me like I am a villain or something,” Archuleta said while holding on to his dog’s leash. “(Buddy) doesn’t harm anything. We don’t bother anybody.”

Animal control officers knocked on Archuleta’s door in December and gave him a citation for not having a license for Buddy.

He was charged with a petty misdemeanor for failing to have a companion license. It is punishable by a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.

“He’s not loose. He is well taken care of,” Archuleta said. “I don’t see why I should be given a citation for something like that.”

Archuleta didn’t show up for his court date, so a warrant was issued.

He’s is not alone. Target 7 found 13 other people like him, with warrants out for their arrest.

Danny Nevarez, the city’s Animal Welfare director, is trying to eliminate the law requiring people to get a license for each pet.

Under a city ordinance, every year, you have to pay $6 and fill out a piece of paper that proves your pet was spayed or neutered, microchipped and vaccinated.

But only 20% of pet owners were getting a license.

And, the city is losing about $20,000 a year because it is paying a Texas-based firm to keep track of who has a pet license.

“Nothing seems to be changing,” Nevarez said. “I don’t think that a 20% compliance rate is an effective program to continue with.”

Although the city may no longer require people to get their pet license, their dogs or cats must still be vaccinated, microchipped or spayed or neutered.

So what is the city going to do about Archuleta and the other 13 fugitives who didn’t get the license?

“Typically, if the infraction happens while the law is in place, you can continue to pursue it,” Nevarez said. “But we will work with our attorneys and the courts to determine the best path forward.”

Nevarez said that, once the law goes away, the city is going to focus more on being proactive rather than just issuing citations. He said the department is going to go to neighborhoods offering free vaccinations and spaying and neutering and microchipping.

The City Council is expected to determine what to do with the law when it votes on the city budget later this month.

In the meantime, “I would go to jail for Buddy,” Archuleta said. “He is all I have.”

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