A thousand dogs have been made legal this month, but there's still an estimated 24,000 of them out there without a licence.
The regional district's month-long free licensing program has proven quite popular, officials say. On Wednesday, the 1,000th free licence was handed out by regional staff.
"We're very pleased with the response we're getting to the program so far, but there are still many dogs out there that need to be licensed," regional district spokesman Bruce Smith said.
licences are available until Oct. 31, and the licence is valid only until the end of the year.
In Decem-ber, the owners of all
licensed dogs will get a letter informing them they must renew the licence for 2014, at a cost of $20 for neutered animals, and $60 for non-neutered dogs.
It was Bobbie-Jo Koutsantonis, a Kelowna woman, who took out the 1,000th and 1,001st licences under the free program, getting them for her dogs, Molly and Joey.
Asked why she had never licenced them before, Koutsantonis candidly said: "Laziness, sheer laziness on my part."
Based on general statistics of dog ownership, it's believed there are about 37,500 dogs in the Central Okanagan. But prior to Oct. 1, only 12,500 dogs were licensed.
Other Canadian cities have much higher rates of licensed dogs. In Calgary, for example, it's estimated 90 per cent of all dogs have a valid licence.
"In Calgary, apparently, it's taken about 20 years of effort to get the licensing numbers that high," Smith said.
Approaches taken in Calgary and elsewhere have included an incentive scheme, by which dog owners received discounts at pet stores when they obtain a licence for their animal.
Zero tolerance enforcement strategies have also been used elsewhere. People found in parks and other public areas with unlicensed dogs are almost always fined, rather than just given a warning.
The Central Okanagan regional district is now employing a rewards program, with people receiving a card that entitles them to discounts at about 30 local pet stores. And after Jan. 1, a zero tolerance approach for unlicensed dogs will be implemented by bylaw officers.
It's expected the regional board will soon raise the fine for having an unlicensed dog from $100 to as high as $500.
Significantly raising the level of dog licensing has been set as a goal by the regional board as a way of helping generate more money to cover the animal control service in the Central Okanagan.
It costs about $1 million a year to operate the service, but only $340,000 of the budget currently comes from dog licensing fees. A subsidy, provided by a transfer from general taxation, covers the rest of the cost.