I 'm not sure how many dogs live in York County, but if you want to use York County Treasurer Barb Bair's math, there are about 60,000.
But I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that number weren't closer to 100,000 or more.
Figure it this way, there are about 150,000 households in York County. So if you figure a third of them have one dog living in the house and half of those have two dogs living in the house, and half of those have more than two dogs living in the same house, you're getting pretty close to 100,000.
But either way, 60,000 to 100,000 is a bunch of dogs.
And only 30,000 of them are properly and legally licensed.
That number can't be disputed. Bair has the paperwork to back it up.
The number of dogs living in York County without a dog license is another matter altogether.
While I have no way of proving it one way or the other, my own life experience tells me there are three or four unlicensed dogs in York County for every one that's licensed.
A few years ago, I tested that theory over a three- or four-month period by quietly checking every dog I came upon to see if it had a dog license. In the end, as I was beginning to foam at the mouth out of futility, I'd checked about 80 dogs.
It was worse than I thought: Of the 80 dogs, six were licensed -- and two of the six lived at my house.
These were not stray dogs, either. They were dogs that lived, ate and slept in someone's house. They should have been licensed, but weren't.
I'll tell you this up front -- I am not in favor of dog licensing. Not because I don't think it's a good idea for dogs to be registered on a data bank in the event they are lost or stolen, but because no other animal I'm aware of requires a similar license.
So it's the principle of the thing. It's discriminatory. Why dogs? I'm a dog person. I've always had a dog or two in my home. It annoys me that I have to purchase a license for my dogs, when pet owners of every other stripe -- horses, cats, birds, reptiles, rodents etc. -- get a free ride.
I never thought it was fair.
And if that's not enough, keep in mind there was a time when you could purchase a dog license for less than $2. Now it's $6.45 to $8.45, depending on whether the dog is spayed or neutered. In York County alone, that's about a quarter of a million dollars.
To be truthful, I suspect the primary reason dog licensing is required by the state is to create a revenue stream to pay for dog wardens and dog law enforcement officers and kennel inspections and all things dog-related.
It's a vicious cycle -- pay to license dogs so we have money to pay the enforcement officers to go around and make sure the dogs are licensed.
But it is what it is. And as long as it's the law, I'll be buying a dog license for my dogs.
And I'll be in the minority.
Because as far as I can tell, no one (unless by dumb luck or accident) has been going around and checking for dog licenses.
To be frank about it, I don't blame them because it'd be a darned-near impossible job. An endless and thankless task.
But that's apparently going to change. A story on Page 1 of last Monday's York Dispatch says the state Department of Agriculture plans to send dog wardens all over York County to look for dog license scofflaws. Every house. Every town. Every nook and cranny.
Fine by me. In fact, it's about time. Where have they been for the last 50 years? I have never seen or heard of a dog warden knocking on anyone's door to check for a dog license.
But now they are going to do it -- in fact, they started this last week and will continue the search into the month of May. I don't know what that means -- two weeks, four weeks, six weeks or whatever.
Honestly, I'm not convinced this is truly going to happen. I mean, think about it. How many dog wardens would it take to knock on every door in York County seeking out dog law violators in a period of four to six weeks?
More than we have, I'm thinking.
I suspect this is another one of those deals where the state announces it's going to check for dog licenses, and that's enough to put the fear of God into dog owners, who will then go out in a panic and purchase a dog license that same afternoon to avoid a fine of between $50 and $300, plus court costs.
But why all the advance notice?
If the state Department of Agriculture were serious about catching up with dog license violators, they'd simply send about 50 dog wardens into York County on the sly and start knocking on doors unannounced. Then start handing out fines.
It also occurs to me that there are 67 counties in this state. If it takes, say, four weeks to knock on every door in York County, the state's only going to get around to about 15 counties.
And York County happens to be one of them.
I don't think I've ever felt so lucky.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.