The sixth annual “Top Dog and First Feline” South Burlington have been named. Teddy, a 7-month-old Boston Terrier, and Boots, a 13-year-old cat, were bestowed the titles and all that accompanies them at last week’s City Council meeting. 

“It’s a lot of work to do this program,” city clerk Donna Kinville said, adding that seeing the joy on pet owners’ faces makes it all worthwhile. 

The contest, inspired by Kinville’s conversations with other clerks on how to encourage residents to register their animals, has helped increase the city’s number of licensed pets over the years. South Burlington is one of several municipalities which requires both dogs and cats to be registered with the town. 

This year, 236 new dogs were registered with total registrations up 86 from the previous year, according to Kinville.

As for felines, 49 new cats were registered this year, 25 more than last year. 

From January until April 1– the state’s deadline for registering dogs – South Burlingtonians who registered dogs or cats were entered into a raffle for a host of prizes donated by local businesses.

“It just makes a fun way of doing something [otherwise] mundane,” Kinville said, adding she’s always surprised by the generosity of local businesses who fill the prize baskets with toys, food, accessories and more. 

There are multiple reasons the city requires pet registration, but two major motivations are returning lost animals to their owners, and public health. In the event a resident is bitten by a wayward cat or dog, Kinville can run descriptive information about the animal’s breed, approximate weight and area where the incident occurred through the city’s log to locate possible offenders. This can help the victim find out if the animal is up to date on its shots so that they can avoid an unnecessary rabies shot. 

“[Registration is] truly done for health reasons,” she said. “We’ve had a number of bites.”

According to public health director Justin Rabidoux, on average somewhere between 30 to 50 people are bitten by dogs in South Burlington each year. 

The winners 

This year’s contest winners, Boots and Teddy, belong to the Morwood and Henry families, respectively.  

Pam and Bob Morwood rescued Boots about 10 years ago. It soon became apparent that Boots was Bob’s cat. Not only did Bob name her – in reference to her black coat and white paws – he also seemed to get more attention from her. 

“She comes up onto my lap but won’t go on my wife’s lap,” Bob said, adding she also sleeps near him at night. But fret not, the Morwoods have two feline friends and their second cat gives Pam plenty of affection.

The Morwoods have made sure to register their pets each year since moving to South Burlington. They first learned of cat registration via a letter from the city. It’s especially important for them, Bob said, because Boots goes outdoors in the summer. 

Bob and Pam hadn’t yet picked up Boot’s loot, but were happy to have been selected.

“I was very, very surprised,” Bob said. “I had forgotten about the contest.” 

Carol Henry, Teddy’s owner, had likewise forgotten about the contest when she received word her pup had been named dog of the year. 

“It was a really great treat,” she said, adding she waited until her 8-year-old son, Jack, was home to head over to city hall and collect Teddy’s prize.

The Henrys added the now 7-month-old Boston Terrier to their family around Thanksgiving. Their beloved Jack Russell Terrier had passed away from an illness in July. 

“Since Jack was born, he’s always had a pet,” Carol said. “So that was quite a loss for him.”

Welcoming a Boston Terrier home wasn’t without risk, she added. The family had never lived with one, let alone met one. But quizzes and research kept pointing towards the breed as having a temperament that would likely complement the family. “It kind of just pieced together perfectly,” Carol said. “He’s worked out great, he’s really sweet.”

The Henry’s have always registered their pets, according to Carol. Licensing her dogs, gives her comfort in case they get off-leash or have a mishap. 

“It’s definitely something that everyone should do,” she said. 

According to Kinville, the South Burlington clerk’s office “bends over backwards” to make pet registration as easy as possible. If a resident comes in missing a piece of documentation, the staff works to call vets and other necessary parties to collect the data rather than sending the owner back to the drawing board. As for the contest, she’s grateful for the myriad of local businesses who donate goodies for the prize baskets. 

New this year, local artist Kimberly Provost will donate her art talent to the cause.

Provost, a new South Burlington resident, learned of the contest when she went to register her five dogs. She wanted to contribute and offered to create a portrait of the winning dog and feline 

“I’ve just always loved animals,” Provost said, adding she  doesn’t usually publicize her portraits but creates them on commission. 

She’ll work with Teddy and Boot’s owners to craft pastel paintings based off the owners’ favorite photo of them. 

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