The dog owners of Pima County not only see their dogs as their buddies, but they also call them that.
An Arizona Daily Star analysis of Pima County dog license data shows more than 1,000 dogs named Buddy, making it the most popular name for dogs here.
The Labrador retriever is easily Pima County's most popular breed, mirroring patterns across the country.
But Southern Arizonans' preferences soon diverge from nationwide trends. The Chihuahua comes in at No. 2 in the local ranking, but doesn't even make the top 10 in the list the American Kennel Club compiled based on license data from cities nationwide.
Pit bulls, Australian shepherds and Australian cattle dogs all made Pima County's top 10, but did not figure prominently in the nationwide data.
Many dogs don't fit into neat "primary breed" categories. If the unspecified terriers and mixes licensed in Pima County are combined, they number more than 5,000. That makes mixed-breed dogs Pima County's fourth most popular type.
And if unlicensed dogs could be factored in, mixed breeds' ranking would undoubtedly be higher, here and elsewhere.
Rabies is focus
Dogs are licensed primarily as a way to enforce rabies vaccinations, but many dogs in Pima County do not have official tags.
The county's database of dogs licensed this year contains about 103,000 entries.
The ratio of licensed dogs to humans varies widely among ZIP codes and correlates to some degree with the area's affluence and distance from licensing locations.
The highest ratios are in ZIP codes that ring Tucson's northeast, east and northwest sides.
ZIP code 85749, in the northeast side's Tanque Verde Valley, tops the list. There are about 196 licensed dogs per 1,000 people there.
The area is one of the region's wealthiest, with a median household income of $78,026, far above the metropolitan area's median household income of $36,758, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
When ZIP codes are sorted by the number of licensed dogs per 1,000 people, eight of the top 10 have incomes above the metropolitan-area median.
The only exceptions are the rural area around Arivaca and the Summerhaven area, which has only 50 residents counted in the ZIP code.
lower licensing rate
At the other side of the licensed-dog spectrum, south-side ZIP codes stand out.
ZIP code 85706, bounded by Valencia and Irvington roads and interstates 10 and 19 had the lowest rate within the city limits, with about 37 licensed dogs per 1,000 residents. The area's median household income is $27,367.
There were about 50 licensed dogs per 1,000 people in the city of South Tucson and surrounding area, and just eight licensed dogs total in the county's largest ZIP code by geographical area, 85634, which includes the Tohono O'odham Nation.
Administrators are aware of the disparities in rates of licensing, but say they are limited in how they can raise licensing rates.
"We have to have probable cause" to enforce licensing laws, said Jayne Cundy, a Pima Animal Care Center spokeswoman.
That means that fines for unlicensed dogs typically stem from a complaint, she said.
The agency relies on its website, contracts with veterinarians who distribute licenses on behalf of the county and events such as animal fairs and shot clinics to spread the word about the license requirement.
"We know it may be hard to get here. We're not on a main bus route," Cundy said. "We try to get out and about."
Recently, the county also began receiving notices of rabies vaccinations from vets and then contacting owners who did not follow up by licensing their dog.
Breed preferences fluctuate throughout the county.
Labrador retrievers and German shepherds are well-loved across the area.
Chihuahuas are the top dog in 11 ZIP codes, mostly south of 22nd Street, but also in 85705, the Flowing Wells area.
Rescue groups, such as Save a Chihuahua Rescue of Tucson, adopt out thousands of the tiny dogs each year.
"It's really a regional thing," said Jan Brick, the group's president, who moved here seven years ago. "I just fell in love with these little guys. They are very loving. They are very protective of their family. They don't know how small they are."
Poodles - a nationwide favorite - break into the top three breeds in Pima County only in Oro Valley and Catalina Foothills ZIP codes.
Cattle dogs - until recently mostly found on ranches - have moved onto the top 10 list here since the Star's last review of license data eight years ago.
Lorina Lopez, president of Flagstaff-based Arizona Cattle Dog Rescue, said that may be because people have bred dogs to make money since the recession began, and there are fewer working ranches.
She also said it may have something to do with the dogs' disposition. Australian cattle dogs, also known as Queensland heelers, are working dogs whose worker quality has not been bred out.
They are very smart, and they tend to need more mental and physical exercise than other types of dogs, she said.
"You see them on the trail, paying attention to their parents. People say, 'Oh, they're so smart,' but they don't think about how you have to raise them. It takes more than your average dog."
On StarNet: Go to azstarnet.com/multimedia for an interactive map showing where the most dogs are licensed by ZIP code.
Most popular breeds in Pima County
• Labrador retriever 10,764
• Chihuahua 8,806
• German shepherd 8,557
• Pit bull 4,438
• Poodle 4,427
• Dachshund 3,532
• Australian shepherd 3,245
• Australian cattle dog 2,996
• Golden retriever 2,957
• Boxer 2,693
Most popular breeds nationwide
• Labrador retriever
• German shepherd
• Golden retriever
• Yorkshire terrier
Tucson's most popular breeds in 2004
• Labrador retriever
• Golden retriever
• German shepherd
• Cocker spaniel
• Shih Tzu
• Australian shepherd
Sources: Pima County dog license database, American Kennel Club, Star archives
Top 10 Dog Names in Pima County
• Buddy 1,042
• Bella 976
• Max 950
• Daisy 900
• Molly 860
• Lucy 819
• Sadie 665
• Maggie 649
• Bailey 622
• Charlie 607
Source: Pima County dog license database
Reasons to license your dog
• It is required by law, and you could be fined for having an unlicensed dog.
• It demonstrates that your dog has been vaccinated against rabies.
• A tag can help reunite you with a lost dog faster than any other means. Unlike a microchip, a tag doesn't need a special scanner to read.
• Licensing fees are the primary revenue source of the Pima Animal Care Center, which is responsible for adopting out pets and enforcing animal-related laws.
Source: Pima County Animal Care Center
How to get a license
You must demonstrate that the dog has a current rabies vaccination to get a license.
With that proof, you can get one at Pima Animal Care Center, 4000 N. Silverbell Road, or at a veterinarian's office affiliated with the licensing program. The vets are listed at http://bit.ly/Nn4UmC
If your dog's rabies certification is current and you just need to renew a license, you can use the county's online licensing system at http://bit.ly/La9h4i
Licensing fees vary by municipality, so not everyone pays the same rates.
In unincorporated Pima County, owners of a dog that has been spayed or neutered pay $15 per dog, or $60 if the dog has not been altered.
Owners who qualify for low-income fees pay $8 for an altered dog and $27 for an unaltered one. There is also a reduced senior rate.
Oro Valley and Sahuarita mirror those rates, and Tucson's fees are similar, but there is no low-income option. The same is true in Marana.
In South Tucson, fees for altered dogs match Pima County's low-income rate, but licensing an unaltered dogs costs much more, $75 each.
Source: Pima Animal Care Center
Contact reporter Carli Brosseau at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4197.