SIOUX FALLS, S.D. | Sioux Falls is a dog town. Want proof?
Of the 25,000 licenses granted to pet owners since 2007, dogs outpaced cats eight to one, according to an Argus Leader analysis of city licensing data. The Sioux Falls Police Department animal control unit provided two fields of information from its database, pet name and breed, so it wasn't possible to track individual animals or owners. Still, a few trends emerged.
Turns out, people in Sioux Falls love Labrador retrievers: There was a one in six chance that a dog licensed in the time period examined was a lab or a lab mix. Shih-Tzus, golden retrievers and dachshunds also were popular.
On the other end of the spectrum were a number of species represented only once: a Sarplaninac, which is a type of eastern European livestock guard dog; a Mexican hairless dog; a pudelpointer. Meanwhile, an 8-year-old canine named Frisco is the only Danish-Swedish farm dog in Sioux Falls, the data show. Owner Warren Ries said he's one of only two in the whole state.
When he's not chasing a tennis ball in Ries' backyard or running agility courses for fun, Frisco is a certified therapy dog who works in schools, nursing homes and hospitals.
"It's kind of a day-brightener for them because they have a pretty routine life," Ries said of Frisco's work in nursing homes. "It helps get them through the day."
Frisco got his name because Ries had to drive to San Francisco to get him.
LICENSES UP 28%
People in Sioux Falls who want to keep dogs or cats 6 months and older are required to get a license with a rabies immunization certificate. Fees range from $5 to $75, depending on the type of animal and the license period. The fine for keeping an unlicensed pet is $95.
Overall, the number of licenses granted has risen 28 percent since 2007. Sioux Falls animal control officer Missy John said this jump could be the result of a recent policy change allowing officers to issue warning tickets for unlicensed pets that carry the threat of an arrest warrant for the owner.
"I would assume that's part of the reason. ... We're pretty adamant about educating people (about the requirements)," she said.
Based on the number of unlicensed pets encountered on service calls, John estimated that about half of the pets in Sioux Falls are not licensed or have an expired tag.
A KATRINA REFUGEE
Mike McHugh of Sioux Falls keeps a mutt called Scooter of an undetermined breed and age. Scooter, a refugee from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, loves to go on car rides and gets excited any time someone comes over to the house, McHugh said.
He said the name is meant to be descriptive.
"It just came to me," he said. "When I first got him he was scooting around the floor."
Scooter was the 64th most popular name for a dog in Sioux Falls, according to the data — the top three were Max, Maggie and Buddy. For cats, the most popular names were Tiger, Shadow and Kitty.
This is consistent with research by Stan Coren, a psychologist who has written a dozen books on pet ownership and canine intelligence.
Last year, Coren analyzed pet names culled from adoption agencies, license registrations, animal hospitals and pet supply manufacturer surveys. He found that Max, Jake and Buddy were the most popular names for male dogs; Molly, Bella and Daisy were most popular for females.
"For some people, they pick the names pretty much the same way they pick names for their kids — whatever happens to be popular at the time," said Coren, who writes a dog blog for Psychology Today.
Other people use the names of previous pets, or celebrities.
Ronald Reagan kept a pair Scottish Terriers named Scotch and Soda; Sigmund Freud's chow chow, Jofi, sat in on patient sessions; a character in a Sir Walter Scott novel, Guy Mannering, had terriers named Pepper and Mustard after the coloring of their coats.
Among his own dogs, Coren has a Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever called Dancer, so named because "whenever I look at the gait of those dogs, they remind me of dressage horses."
Mary Abbott, a sales account manager for 605 Magazine, has a 5-year-old basset hound named Suzy Q she adopted from a shelter. Suzy Q was severely underweight when she was found living in or near a Dumpster — that part of the story isn't clear — but she's since bounced back.
Appearance-wise, Abbott said, if a dachshund is a wiener dog, this one's a bratwurst.
"She's basically a terrier trapped in a basset's body. She has a lot of energy but tiny legs. She looks like a coffee table."