Articles

Detailed Discussion of Emerging Issues in Municipal Ordinances

  • Jacqueline M. Logan
  • Animal Legal & Historical Center
  • Publish Date: 2013
  • Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law

I. INTRODUCTION

Starting in 2005, after the passing of the ban on declawing in West Hollywood, the United States appeared to be headed in a direction towards animal control reform.  New areas of concern began to emerge and more and more animal advocates spoke out to local legislatures about new ordinances to help protect animals.  City municipalities were also starting to look at new ways to serve the public while saving tax payers money, even before the 2005 ban on declawing in West Hollywood.  Since the beginning of animal control agencies, local governments have always been primarily concerned with the health and welfare of the community members with less emphasis on domestic animals.  Care of animals started with the protection of livestock, and slowly grew to include domestic animals such as cats, dogs, rodents, rabbits, and exotics.

This paper will discuss those emerging areas that have recently cropped up in many municipalities throughout the United States and how municipalities have addressed these areas through passing of ordinances.  Mandatory spay and neutering, feral cat management, declawing, retail sales of pets, breeding licenses, and tethering laws will be discussed, including the strengths and weaknesses of each ordinance.  The goals these ordinances seek to achieve involve community education, control of over population, and to restore the human animal bond.  Additionally, suggestions for municipalities for how to construct their own ordinances in each of these areas are included.  Finally, a general overview is covered of how a complete model code for animal control is constructed for animal agencies and municipalities in order to provide a comprehensive overview. 

II. HISTORY OF ANIMAL CONTROL AND SHELTERS 

Animal control and shelters began their history by assisting owners of wandering livestock in reclaiming their property.  Since livestock was one of the primary sources of income for many people in the 19th century, many animals were reclaimed from animal control “officers”.  (Animal sheltering in the United States: Yesterday, today, and Tomorrow, Lila Miller, DVM http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/vetmed/Medicine/Animal-sheltering-in-the-United-States-Yesterday-t/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/463622).  Eventually, wandering dogs began to be rounded up by animal control officers; however, less importance and monetary value was placed on dogs and thus many were drowned in rivers or shot.  (Where They Used to Drown the Dogs, Jennifer Lee, http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/30/where-they-used-to-drown-the-dogs/).  The primary job of animal control officers in the early 19th century was to protect public safety by ridding the community of wandering animals that were thought to contain and spread disease and protect private property.

The first animal rescue/welfare group was founded in 1866, which was The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and the first low-cost spay and neuter program was started in Los Angeles in 1971 and.  The ASPCA began their efforts by protecting neglected and abused horses and slowly began focusing on dogs and then cats.  (Where They Used to Drown the Dogs, Jennifer Lee, http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/30/where-they-used-to-drown-the-dogs/), (Animal sheltering in the United States: Yesterday, today, and Tomorrow, Lila Miller, DVM http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/vetmed/Medicine/Animal-sheltering-in-the-United-States-Yesterday-t/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/463622).   The main concern with early animal shelters and animal control was to provide a quick and humane way of euthanizing unclaimed animals.  Some of the earlier methods include “clubbing, drowning, electrocution, decompression chambers, and carbon monoxide poisoning”.  At the same time, community shelters also began issuing dog licenses to help with funding.  Slowly the public and individuals concerned with animal welfare and care of animals in shelters began speaking up and several laws were passed prohibiting capturing and killing of dogs and cats. A more formal system was set up for reclaiming, licensing, and humanely housing shelter animals.  The first organization to really focus on the treatment of animals in shelters was the Women’s Branch of the Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia.  Eventually, the veterinary community was asked to give insight into proper care and handling of animals in shelters.  (Animal sheltering in the United States: Yesterday, today, and Tomorrow, Lila Miller, DVM http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/vetmed/Medicine/Animal-sheltering-in-the-United-States-Yesterday-t/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/463622).  Minimum standards and hold periods were established, safe and humane practices for euthanasia were discovered, and animal adoptions and volunteer programs were created constructing the foundation of what animal control and animal shelters are today.

III. STATE VS CITY: WHO SHOULD ENFORCE?

A general issue among animal welfare laws is what level of government should institute and enforce these laws; should it be a state or city concern?  Generally cities are easier to oversee and possess ordinances specific to that locality.  Municipalities’ main priorities are the health and safety of the residents and this level of government is best equipped to deal with community animal control.  In addition, since needs of communities differ from geographical area to geographical area such as differing income levels, education levels, and culture, an ordinance for an animal population in one city may not work in a different city. (Handy, Geoffrey L. Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 2001).  Further, city administration is set up to deal with specific community concerns and enforce already existent ordinances, including more rigorous ordinances.  Having an established group of city officials in charge of a smaller local, as opposed to an entire state, ensures effective and timely enforcement. 

State programs are possible as well, and sometimes are viewed as more effective in certain circumstances.  When different communities that border each other have different laws, the way an animal is treated in one community could vary greatly.  Animals also are able to wander and not always understand city borders, thus, state wide ordinances have been seen to be more consistent and effective.  Generally, state programs are primarily responsible for breeding ordinances, sales of animals, and ownership of animals.  The most successful statewide animal welfare programs include programs that are easy to use and administer, constructed with carefully thought up laws, founded on legislation that is already well routed and established, fund specific spay and neuter programs with funding that can run for one full year at a time and planned five years in advance, and possess a coordinator and oversight committee.  (A Fresh Look at Spay/Neuter Legislation: The Journey to a Middle Ground, by Gemma N. Zanowski, https://lawlib.wlu.edu/lexopus/works/669-1.pdf).  An example of an effective state run program is Delaware’s H.B. 425 (www.spayusa.org/main_directory/05-laws_and_legislation/promising_sn.pdf).

IV. EMERGING AREAS: GREATEST CONCERNS FOR ANIMAL CONTROL AGENCIES

Animal Control agencies and city municipalities have sought to accomplish a balance between public welfare and humane treatment of animals more so over the last twenty years than ever before.  New animal control issues, that animal control agencies and cities alike have begun to notice and respond to, have arisen all over the United States.  The following sections include those emerging areas and discuss the impacts on cities and animal control agencies.

A. Overpopulation

Between 8-10 million animals enter U.S. shelters each year and about 4-5 million are euthanized each year.  In-taking, providing shelter, and euthanizing that number of animals can be taxing on municipal agencies throughout the U.S. (Handy, Geoffrey L. Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 2001).  Euthanasia costs tax payers $2 billion dollars a year, approximately $50-$90 per animal to euthanize.  Half of all litters of puppies are unintentional and one million puppies a year go unsold from breeders’ litters and then enter the U.S. shelter system.   Overpopulation is a combination of accidental litters, impulse buying, irresponsible pet practices, a breakdown of the human-animal bond, failing to spay and neuter, roaming pets, and backyard breeders. (A Fresh Look at Spay/Neuter Legislation: The Journey to a Middle Ground, by Gemma N. Zanowski, https://lawlib.wlu.edu/lexopus/works/669-1.pdf).  Most animals currently in shelters in the U.S. are six months to two years of age.  This statistic shows many puppies and kittens that are adopted at a young age tend to end up back in shelters after they have grown up indicating the breakdown of the human animal bond is ever present.  (Handy, Geoffrey L. Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 2001). 

B. Dangerous Dogs/Dog Bites

The most serious health and safety issue for animal control officers today are dog bites.  Dog bites account for approximately 4.5 million injuries a year mostly affecting children.  Common factors that lead to dogs being dangerous or attacking include: whether the dog is spayed or neutered; incomplete socialization; lack of supervision; inadequate training; and unsafe confinement.  Unaltered dogs (dogs not spayed or neutered) are more than twice as likely to bite and chained or tethered dogs are more than 2.8 times more likely to bite. Notably, 95% of fatal bites and mauling are done by unaltered dogs.  Some cities have attempted to address the issue of fatalities linked to dog bites by implementing breed specific legislation (BSL).  BSL are laws that ban or restrict the ownership of certain breeds of dogs in a community.  Unfortunately, some data shows that breed specific laws do not seem to address the true issue of dangerous dogs; rather laws that emphasize the legal responsibilities of a dog’s actions on the owner are more likely to be effective.  (Handy, Geoffrey L. Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 2001).

C. Free-Roaming Cats/Feral Cats

Cats have now surpassed dogs as the U.S.’s most popular pet, and becoming more noticed by animal welfare groups and city municipalities.  Because of the danger of spreading disease and contributing to animal population, city municipalities and some states have taken measures to help manage feral and stray cat populations.  In fact, feral cats are the single biggest contributor to animal overpopulation in the US.  Ordinances vary among municipalities, including requiring all free-roaming cats to be spayed/neuter to licensing whole colonies of feral cats and designating a caregiver.  It is a problem that is foremost in many communities and cities are creating new and progressive ways to handling feral cat populations every day.  (Handy, Geoffrey L. Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 2001).

D. Rabies

Known as a “zoonotic” disease, or a disease that can spread between species (i.e., dogs/cats to humans), rabies is one of the most dangerous diseases that animals can transmit to humans.  The most common carrier of rabies is wildlife, but the cat is believed to be the most common companion animal carrier.  However, the last reported case of a human contracting rabies from a cat was in 1975 according to the Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov); (Robertson, Sheilah A. A Review of Feral Cat Control. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 10 (2008): 366-75).  Cats are most likely to contract the disease because they are more likely to roam free at night when most wildlife is active.  (Handy, Geoffrey L. Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 2001).  To combat this disease from spreading to humans, many municipalities throughout the U.S. have instituted vaccine ordinances requiring owners of cats, dogs, and ferrets to vaccinate their companion animals before a license can be issued for that animal. 

E. Ownership of Wildlife/Exotics

The ownership of exotic pets or wildlife causes animal control agencies great concern due to special diet and housing needs most of these animals require and the danger these animals present.  The nutritional needs of monkeys or tigers cannot be met by a trip to the local grocery store.  Reptiles especially have specific diet and environmental needs difficult to maintain long term after the appeal wears off.  Therefore, many individuals grow dissatisfied in exotic pet ownership and require animal control agencies to handle the surrender of these animals.  Additionally, the wolf hybrid has become increasingly popular; however currently there is not an approved rabies vaccine for this animal.  Safety is a major concern as well when dealing with wild and exotic pets, primarily the ownership of lions, tigers, and other animals that possess weight advantages over humans and prey instincts.  Concern over these areas has led to many cities and states banning ownership of these categories of animals or limiting their ownership.  (Handy, Geoffrey L. Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 2001).

V. THE FOUR PROGRESSIVE ORDINANCES AND THEIR TARGETED OUTCOMES

Local governments seek to address and handle these emerging animal control issues through various ordinances.  The ordinances discussed in this topic are four cities’ specific ways of how local law makers combat these issues.  They involve balancing animal welfare concerns and public safety and health concerns.  The goals of animal control organizations are to combat pet overpopulation, educate the public, and restore the human-animal bond.  Through mandatory spay and neutering, animal control agencies seek to encourage responsible pet ownership, decrease litters, and the overall health of companion animals.  The goals of feral cat ordinances are to decrease pet overpopulation, protect the public and other companion animals from the spread of zoonotic diseases, protect private and public property, protect wildlife from predation, and increase quality of life for the cats themselves.  (Robertson, Sheilah A. A Review of Feral Cat Control. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 10 (2008): 366-75).  The cruelty prevention statutes that ban declawing and sales of animals in pet stores seek to increase the value of companion animals.  The ban on sales of animals in pet stores has led to more regulation on breeding and a goal of decreasing litters from “backyard breeders” (breeders who do not monitor breeding and house dogs in unsanitary conditions).  Lastly, the goal of anti-tethering is aimed at decreasing the incidents of dog bites and fatalities from dog attacks, thus protecting the public at large. 

The intentions behind each of these municipalities’ ordinances are to keep the public safe and healthy; however, the main crux of most municipalities is enforcement.  As mentioned above, each geographical area is different and therefore needs to tailor their ordinances to fit the needs of each individual community.

VI. KING COUNTY, WASHINGTON: MANDATORY SPAY AND NEUTER

A. Why Spay and Neuter?

Spaying and neutering companion animals became popular in the 1970’s when animals entering shelters rose to 20 million animals.  (Animal Sheltering Treads in the U.S., The Humane Society of the United States, http://www.humanesociety.org/animal_community/resources/timelines/animal_sheltering_trends.html). Currently euthanasia of unclaimed animals costs tax payers $2 billion dollars a year with 4-5 million companion animals euthanized every year (about one every eight seconds).  It is more expensive to house, kill, and dispose of animals than it is to advocate spay and neutering of companion animals.  Spay and neuter purports to save communities money, lowers shelter intakes, and benefits the health of animals which in turn also lowers shelter intake.  (A Fresh Look at Spay/Neuter Legislation: The Journey to a Middle Ground, Gemma N. Zanowski, https://lawlib.wlu.edu/lexopus/works/669-1.pdf)  Additionally 95% of all fatal dog attacks occur from unaltered dogs and unaltered dogs are more than twice as likely to bite or attack. (Handy, 2001) The center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends spay/neutering dogs to lower aggression and reduce the incidents of dog bites. (Home and Recreational Safety: Dog Bite Prevention, www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/dog-bites/biteprevention.html)  Since animal control agencies’ primary concern is public welfare, by decreasing costs and pet overpopulation, spaying and neutering helps communities use funds for other purposes besides housing and euthanizing animals. 

B. King County

In 1991, King County passed an ordinance that required all cats and dogs to be altered unless owners paid a higher unaltered animal licensing fee.  (See Section 11.04.400).  Additionally, a breeding license was required if the owner wishes to breed their animal for another additional fee.  (See Section 11.04.570).  Shelter intake and the number of animals euthanized dropped by almost 50%. (What Happened to the No Kill Millennium?, Rachel Proctor, www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid%3A311358).   However, the decrease in shelter intake and number of animals euthanized was credited to the intense licensing program King County conducted that year.  Animal control officers went door to door throughout the community offering licensing for companion animals.  When community members bought a license an animal control officer would ask whether they were interested in a reduced licensing fee by altering their animal.  Most people given the option of a lower licensing rate and a low-cost spay/neuter program opted to get their animals spayed or neutered.  Individuals were given 30 days to spay or neuter their animals and in return a reduced licensing fee.  (A Fresh Look at Spay/Neuter Legislation: The Journey to a Middle Ground, Gemma N. Zanowski, https://lawlib.wlu.edu/lexopus/works/669-1.pdf)  

King County shows an excellent example of an animal control agency’s goals and implementing an appropriate program to enforce those goals.  One of the biggest challenges in animal control is enforcement, thus constructing an ordinance with an intended plan of enforcement proves most effective.  Well founded ordinances are only as effective as the ability of a municipality to enforce those laws. 

C. Effectiveness of Mandatory Spay and Neutering Outside King County

Although King County in Washington was able to effectively utilize a mandatory spay/neuter law, many municipalities struggle with implementing and enforcing this type of ordinance.  One of the struggles that plague municipalities is the lack of requirement of shelters to spay and neuter all animals that are either returned to owners or adopted.  Several cities adopted the spay/neuter deposit system where adopters of unaltered pets would place a monetary deposit down when adopting and could collect that deposit back after spaying or neutering their newly adopted pet.  However, many people chose to forego their deposit for a number of reasons including the low cost of the deposit (usually $50) that did not significantly impact the desire to get the deposit back as well as a lack of access to low cost spay and neuter facilities. (A Fresh Look at Spay/Neuter Legislation: The Journey to a Middle Ground, Gemma N. Zanowski, https://lawlib.wlu.edu/lexopus/works/669-1.pdf)

Additionally, this ordinance only affects owners who choose to license their animals, unless a more rigorous licensing program is implemented (National Animal Interest Alliance, Policy Statement: Mandatory Spay and Neutering, http://www.naiaonline.org/about-us/position-statements/mandatory-spay-neuter-legislation/).  This ordinance could also lead to more owner surrenders who do not have the ability to comply with the mandatory spay/neutering or a disincentive to license animals.  (ASPCA, Position Statement on Mandatory Spay and Neuter, http://www.aspca.org/nyc/mobile-spay-neuter-clinic/position-statement-on-mandatory-spayneuter-laws).  Furthermore, mandatory spay/neuter fails to reach the biggest contributor of pet overpopulation, the feral cat.  Feral cats are part of a legal grey area and technically not “owned” in the traditional sense, thus licensing of this population leading to mandatory spay/neutering is not accomplished through this ordinance.  Responsible breeders also feel targeted and fear importation of puppies and a negative economic impact to their business. Importation of puppies occurs when responsible breeders are restricted from producing more than a certain amount of puppies for sale.  As a result, importation of puppies occurs because the supply of puppies will go down, but the demand for puppies remains constant in that community.  Lastly, the cost of animal control enforcement of these ordinances and administrative costs can financially impact city residents. (A Fresh Look at Spay/Neuter Legislation: The Journey to a Middle Ground, Gemma N. Zanowski, https://lawlib.wlu.edu/lexopus/works/669-1.pdf); (National Animal Interest Alliance, Policy Statement: Mandatory Spay and Neutering, http://www.naiaonline.org/about-us/position-statements/mandatory-spay-neuter-legislation/). 

Overall the challenges to mandatory spay and neuter laws can potentially be overcome with an overseeing committee, a firm and effective plan of enforcement, and a rigorous licensing program.  Municipalities should note that mandatory spay/neutering laws by themselves do not appear effective, a multifaceted collaborative animal control program targeting different animal populations and animal owners would be most effective. (National Canine Research Council, Position Statement on Mandatory Spay and Neuter, http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/responsible-pet-ownership/spay-neuter/); (ASPCA, Position Statement on Mandatory Spay and Neuter, http://www.aspca.org/nyc/mobile-spay-neuter-clinic/position-statement-on-mandatory-spayneuter-laws); (A Fresh Look at Spay/Neuter Legislation: The Journey to a Middle Ground, Gemma N. Zanowski, https://lawlib.wlu.edu/lexopus/works/669-1.pdf)

D. Alternatives to Mandatory Spay and Neutering Laws

The most effective program of ensuring animal spay and neutering is a combination of several variables.  Access to low-cost spay and neuter programs is very important.  (National Canine Research Council, Position Statement on Mandatory Spay and Neuter, http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/responsible-pet-ownership/spay-neuter/).  In combination with low cost spay and neuter programs, providing incentives for spaying and neutering ensures more community members use the service. (ASPCA, Position Statement on Mandatory Spay and Neuter, http://www.aspca.org/nyc/mobile-spay-neuter-clinic/position-statement-on-mandatory-spayneuter-laws).  Lastly, making spaying and neutering voluntary ensures individuals do not feel forced or pressured. (National Animal Interest Alliance, Policy Statement: Mandatory Spay and Neutering, http://www.naiaonline.org/about-us/position-statements/mandatory-spay-neuter-legislation/). By providing “differential licensing”, licensing that offers a structured fee system based on the animals reproductive status, animal owners are encouraged to spay or neuter their animals at a reduced licensing fee.  In addition to the differential licensing option, breeders’ licenses are also helpful to create a disincentive for breeding. If individuals choose to breed their animals, the license will regulate the number of litters and number of animals that can be bred in one household.  This encourages responsible breeding and decreases the incidence of accidental litters that lead to pet overpopulation. (A Fresh Look at Spay/Neuter Legislation: The Journey to a Middle Ground, Gemma N. Zanowski, https://lawlib.wlu.edu/lexopus/works/669-1.pdf); See also, Washington State’s “Puppy Mill Law” http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2010665616_apwapuppymills1stldwritethru.html and West Hollywood Breeder License Law and District of Columbia licensing Fee Stratification).

Additional alternatives to mandatory spay and neutering include implementing feral cat programs that lead to the decrease in feral cat litters and target the single largest population that contributes to pet overpopulation.  The most popular program for feral cats is the TNR program, or trap-neuter-release program (discussed in section VIIC on feral cats). (ASPCA, Position Statement on Mandatory Spay and Neuter, http://www.aspca.org/nyc/mobile-spay-neuter-clinic/position-statement-on-mandatory-spayneuter-laws).

Lastly, spay and neutering should reach all animals to effectively combat pet overpopulation and the subsequent effects of pet overpopulation.  Requiring all animals that enter a shelter to be altered would be the most effective policy. (A Fresh Look at Spay/Neuter Legislation: The Journey to a Middle Ground, Gemma N. Zanowski, https://lawlib.wlu.edu/lexopus/works/669-1.pdf); (ASPCA, Position Statement on Mandatory Spay and Neuter, http://www.aspca.org/nyc/mobile-spay-neuter-clinic/position-statement-on-mandatory-spayneuter-laws). Owned animals would have the benefit of being spayed or neutered and the health benefits that accompany, as well as owners being able to pay for a lower licensing fee when reclaiming their animals.  Additionally, if shelters spayed/neutered every animal that was admitted, unaltered stray animals, including feral cats, would be addressed as well.

A collaborative effort employing access to low-cost spay/neuter programs, offering citizens to voluntarily spay or neuter their animals, differential licensing, feral cat management, and mandatory spay/neutering of all animals entering shelters attacks pet overpopulation and leads to public safety and welfare.  A multifaceted approach addresses animal welfare and community issues from several different angles ensuring effective and efficient animal control.

E. Legal Challenges

Currently mandatory spay and neutering has had many legal challenges by animal owners, with little success in overturning the ordinance in court. (It's Raining Cats and Dogs . . . Government Lawyers Take Note: Differential Licensing Laws Generate Revenue, Reduce Costs, Protect Citizens, and Save Lives, Phyllis Coleman and Heather Veleanu, 40 Stetson L. Rev. 393 (2011)).  The most common argument used by animal owners is the unconstitutionality of forcing alteration (surgery) on their property (animals are considered property in the legal sense), also known as a “taking”.  (National Animal Interest Alliance, Policy Statement: Mandatory Spay and Neutering, http://www.naiaonline.org/about-us/position-statements/mandatory-spay-neuter-legislation/).  Most animal owners challenging mandatory spay/neutering are breeders or individuals that participate in dog shows.  City officials are able to circumvent this argument by creating exceptions to mandatory spay/neutering through differential licensing. 

Claims have been made by plaintiffs challenging the “reasonableness” of the fee structure, including unaltered license fee expense and the cost of a breeder’s license.  Again, these challenges have little to no success in the court system and most challenges by animal owners involve laws concerning property.  For a complete list of judicial challenges and the courts response to these challenges please see,  It's Raining Cats and Dogs . . . Government Lawyers Take Note: Differential Licensing Laws Generate Revenue, Reduce Costs, Protect Citizens, and Save Lives, Phyllis Coleman and Heather Veleanu, 40 Stetson L. Rev. 393 (2011), pages 411-424.

VII. STONE HARBOR: FERAL CATS

Cats are now considered American’s “most favorite pet” (Handy, 2001), with feral cats making up a large percentage, almost 40% of the seventy million cats in the U.S. (A Public Policy Toward the Management of Feral Cats, Shawn Gorman and Julie Levy, 2 Pierce L.Rev. 157 (2004)).  Because nearly 28 million cats are free-roaming and without reproductive control, feral cats have bred at an increasing rate over the years and have now become an issue nationwide.  Feral cats used to occupy barn homes and be used as rodent and pest control, so when a litter of kittens was born that a farmer felt he or she could not take care of, the litter of kittens were exterminated by the farmer. (A Public Policy Toward the Management of Feral Cats, Shawn Gorman and Julie Levy, 2 Pierce L.Rev. 157 (2004)); The American Cat Project, www.americancat.net/feralproblem.html). However, since those times, cats have multiplied in cities and towns and have forced community members not comfortable or familiar with those methods of population control to seek alternative methods of feral cat management. 

A. Why Feral Cats are an Issue

The reasons behind the need for feral cat management include feral cats contributing to pet overpopulation, spread of zoonotic diseases, wildlife predation, and public nuisance issues.  (Handy, Geoffrey L. Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 2001); (Robertson, 2008).

There are many reasons pet owners decide to surrender their animals to shelters, but many cat owners, and dog owners alike, feel that taking an animal to a shelter is a death sentence.  Therefore, instead of surrendering an animal to a shelter, individuals will often leave their animals outdoors, especially when moving residences, hoping the animal will be able to take care of itself or find another home.  Most animals abandoned outside are felines, not only because owners are worried about their cats being euthanized at the local shelter, but also because many people believe cats are still “wild” and able to survive well on their own outside.  People will abandon their cats outside due to moving, rental housing restrictions, behavior issues, changes in lifestyle (significant other moving in, pregnancy), and unrealistic expectations.  (Handy, Geoffrey L. Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 2001).  This is where the phenomenon of the human animal breakdown occurs.  Because of this breakdown many cats are abandoned outside, and many are not altered and free to roam and reproduce, leading to the current feral cat overpopulation issue.

Not only is overpopulation an issue, but feral cats come in contact with wildlife that has the potential to transfer zoonotic diseases. Among the most dangerous is the spread of rabies from feral cats.  Feral cats are more likely to come in contact with wildlife that has contracted rabies as feral cats because of feral cats’ ability to roam and come in contact with wildlife at nighttime.  Although cats are the most common domestic carrier of rabies, a case of rabies spread to a human has not been documented since 1975 from the Center for Disease Control.  (Handy, Geoffrey L. Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 2001).  Feral cats also have been linked to human plague (Yersinia pestis), toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondii), cat scratch fever (Bartonella henselae), Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and Toxocara cati, all of which are transmitted by having close contact with feces of the feral cat.  Typhus like diseases, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Q fever are also associated with the feral cat and are spread through infected fleas.  Close contact is required for all of these diseases to be transferred to humans and through hand washing and cleanliness after being in an area populated by feral cats is recommended. 

Additionally, cats can also spread diseases to owned cats that are allowed to free roam including the most common feline leukemia (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (also known as feline AIDS or FIV),  upper respiratory infections (URI), calici virus, and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).  Most of these diseases can be spread through feces or saliva and are treatable, though FIV requires transfer through blood or mating, and FIV and FeLV are lifelong viruses.  (Robertson, Sheilah A. A Review of Feral Cat Control. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 10 (2008): 366-75; The Law and Feral Cats, 3 J.Animal. & Ethics 7, 2009).  However, many diseases feral cats suffer from are also found in owned free roaming cats, with the feral cat population and owned free roaming cat population about equal in amount of disease carriers.  Thus, feral cat management must be followed up with public education on vaccinations. (Handy, Geoffrey L. Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 2001).

Feral cats also affect pose nuisance issues including noise from primarily intact felines to fecal contamination around public areas.  Where there is food, there are feral cats that will congregate and colonize. Most feral cats cannot survive off of wildlife as sustenance, therefore many depend on the public feeding them, including restaurant scraps and food stations that good Samaritans set up.  Unfortunately where food is plentiful and reproduction is not controlled, a feral colony will thrive and increase the number of residents in the colony.  A study conducted in California in 2006 found that free roaming cats accounted for 77.6 tons per year of fecal material, however only 30% of the cats were feral, the rest were comprised of owned cats allowed to free roam outside. (Dabritz, H.A., Atwill, E.R., Gardener, I. A., Miller, M. A., & Conrad, P. A.(2006), Outdoor fecal deposition by free-roaming cats and attitudes of cat owners and non-owners toward stray pets, wildlife, and water pollution.  Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 229 (2006): 74-81); (Robertson, Sheilah A. A Review of Feral Cat Control. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 10 (2008): 366-75).

One of the most controversial issues arising out of feral cat over population is the threat feral cats pose to wildlife, especially birds.  Unfortunately, little research has been conducted on cats’ predation and extinction of birds and most of the debate centers around passionate bird lovers verses passionate cat lovers.  Much of the struggle that arises between cat and bird lovers is fueled with emotion and a lack of scientific facts.  Although cats have been observed to be predators of birds, observation studies conducted by Castillo and Clark in 2003 showed minimal bird predation in managed colonies.  These colonies included all feline members spayed/neutered, regularly fed, and caregivers set up to manage the colony. (Robertson, Sheilah A. "A Review of Feral Cat Control." Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 10 (2008): 366-75).  In many environments where birds exist, so do rats, and if cats are removed from this environment, there is shown an increase in number of rats resulting in a drastic drop in the bird population.  (Robertson, Sheilah A. A Review of Feral Cat Control. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 10 (2008): 366-75).  In addition to rats and other natural predators, birds are also victims of habitat loss from urbanization and the increasing use of pesticides.  (The Law and Feral Cats, Verne R. Smith, 3 J.Animal. L. & Ethics 7 (2009)). 

Unfortunately, the feral cat debate and the true impact on the environment has very little scientific backing and research on the subject, because of this, feral cat management is mostly an emotionally fueled issue.  Additionally, separating the impact feral cats present on the community versus the impact owned free-roaming cats have on the community is extremely difficult.  Because little research is done to guide lawmakers and government officials to a solution, public opinion is among the most important consideration when constructing a program in which to management feral cats. (A Public Policy Toward the Management of Feral Cats, Shawn Gorman and Julie Levy, 2 Pierce L.Rev. 157, 2004).  Thus, city municipalities should create a program that involves passionate feral cat advocates and values their opinions.  Working with the feral cat community advocates will ensure cooperation and adherence to ordinances concerning feral cats. 

B. How to Regulate: Gray Area of the Law

Feral cats possess an interesting classification in the legal system because they teeter between “wild” and “domestic”.  There are many different definitions as to what a feral cat is and many definitions as to what a “feral cat owner” is.  The difficulty lies in understanding what ordinances are to be enforced depending on the needs of the community.  Some of the issues that cities have to address when including feral cats in their municipal ordinances are: how to license feral cats, abandonment of cats, cats running at large and whether this constitutes “feral” or “owned”, pet limit laws and the amount of feral cats in a “colony”, and feral cats roaming between jurisdictions with conflicting ordinances. (The Law and Feral Cats, Verne R. Smith, 3 J.Animal. L. & Ethics 7 (2009)).  Municipalities need to determine how to regulate and incorporate these issues into their city ordinances. 

C. Approaches to Feral Cat Management

There are two common approaches used by municipalities in dealing with feral cats.  The first is using “managed colonies” and colony caretakers to take care of the cats in a specific geographical location.  The second method commonly used is trap, remove, and euthanize where feral cats are eradicated from the environment completely. (Robertson, Sheilah A. "A Review of Feral Cat Control." Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 10 (2008): 366-75).  There are other options that animal control and the community can implement keeping in mind that this issue is one of the more emotional problems city municipalities handle.  Some research shows the most effective solution overall is implementing a program that is effective, practical, and humane.  (Robertson, Sheilah A. A Review of Feral Cat Control. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 10 (2008): 366-75); (A Public Policy Toward the Management of Feral Cats, Shawn Gorman and Julie Levy, 2 Pierce L.Rev. 157, 2004); (Levy, 2004).

As mentioned above, a common solution to feral cat management is trap, remove and euthanize.  This involves setting traps and transporting the feral cats to be euthanized at animal control facilities.  Likewise, another control method is to euthanize on site; poisons are most typically used for this method.  The outcome of these practices is not always positive even though these methods involve complete removal of the feral cats.  When using poison, a risk of human exposure is presented as well as exposure to owned free roaming cats, dogs, and unintended wildlife. Additionally, according to multiple research sources, removing feral cats from a specific geographical area where the cats were able to survive usually results in cats from other areas moving in to this newly eradicated area.  (Robertson, Sheilah A. A Review of Feral Cat Control. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 10 (2008): 366-75); (The Law and Feral Cats, Verne R. Smith, 3 J.Animal. L. & Ethics 7 (2009)).  These methods are able to work in instances where animal control is able to implement an intense program that continuously traps and removes, or euthanizes on site.  (Robertson, Sheilah A. A Review of Feral Cat Control. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 10 (2008): 366-75).  Municipalities need to take into account community emotions surrounding feral cats and their ability to implement an oncoming strict program should they decide to take this route of feral cat management.

There are two approaches that address feral cats that do not involve eradicating cats from the environment; rather, the methods involve focusing on sterilization of the cats.  A new vaccine called Spayvac was created that when given through an injection it prevents fertilization of the female cats’ eggs.  The concerns of this method include access to the vaccination since it is fairly new, and having to trap and administer this vaccine to each feral cat.  The effectiveness is not overall satisfactory and other methods should be used in conjunction with this method. 

The second approach that deals with sterilization is the approach known as trap-neuter-release, or “TNR”.  Many programs add additional steps to this program, resulting in the name “trap-test-vaccinate-neuter-release-monitor”.  This second approach tests the feral cats for infectious diseases such as feline AIDS and leukemia vaccinates against common diseases, such as panleukopenia, neuters, releases, and then sets up a colony manager to care for the colony.  There are several studies that indicate TNR has been able to most successfully decrease the number of feral cats in a geographic area, leaving a stabilized number of feral cats that colony managers, usually community members, care for. (Levy, 2003); (A Public Policy Toward the Management of Feral Cats, Shawn Gorman and Julie Levy, 2 Pierce L.Rev. 157 (2004)); (Foley, 2005); (Hughes, 2002).  Overall findings from these above mentioned studies include: a decrease in number of feral cats; neutered feral cats that are less likely to engage in aggressive behavior; a decrease in complaints to animal control; a decrease in cat intake at shelters; a decrease in euthanasia; and a decrease in shelter operating costs. 

There are several obstacles that municipalities must also be aware of when implementing this type of program.  First of all, TNR efforts must be continuously maintained to be effective.  (Levy, Julie K., DVM. Evaluation of the Effect of a Long Term TNR and Adoption Program on a Free-roaming Cat Population. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 222.1 (2003): 42-46).  Monitoring of colonies and addressing the entire population in the specific targeted area should be followed. Additionally, one study in particular mentioned the lack of territorial behavior among neutered feral cats when new cats were introduced to the area. (Hughes, Kathy L., Margaret R. Slater, and Linda Haller. The Effects of Implementing a Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Program. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 5(4) (2002): 285-98). Usually a feral cat colony’s number of cats is self-sustainable, meaning when the carrying capacity, or the maximum number of cats the area can sustain, is met current colony members will defend their territory prohibiting new cats from entering the area. Lack of territorial behavior makes the carrying capacity increase and a larger cat population result, instead of decreasing the population.  This scenario is typically found when caretakers over feed the colony leaving more food than the colony needs to survive.  More cats move into the area and because more food is available than the colony needs.  This also leads to dumping of owned cats no longer wanted when owners do not want to take their cats to the shelter.  Limiting the amount of food available and placing feeding stations in less visible areas typically results in deterring dumping of owned cats and increasing the overall population.  Municipalities considering this method should work with feral cat advocates and community members to maximize effectiveness and limit out of pocket spending. 

D. Stone Harbor, New Jersey

In 2004, Stone Harbor New Jersey passed an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of all feral cats in the town.  This ordinance was met with much contention and resistance.  (Reverse the Feeding Ban in Stone Harbor, Maureen Koplow, http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/SHARE_SHelter-And-REscue/message/3784).  Acknowledging the strain this ordinance created in the community, in 2005, the city of Stone Harbor, New Jersey began a program that sought to manage the feral cat population through creating a program that protected both feral cats and wild indigenous birds residing in the city.  Stone Harbor passed a pro-TNR program that removed feral cats from the southern tip of the town, neutered or spayed the feral cats, and released them to other parts of town away from the new bird sanctuary.  (See Section 147-24, et. seq.).  Cats are prohibited from being released in the bird sanctuary or in the blocks surrounding the bird sanctuary (buffer zones), but are protected in the rest of the town.  The program was fully funded by the city.  (Feral Cats in the News: The Feral Cat Blog, New Jersey News Ashbury Park Press, http://catsinthenews.blogspot.com/2005_05_01_archive.html).  By sterilizing all the cats, relocating, and setting up colony managers, cats were deterred from repopulating old areas inside the bird sanctuary.  Food for feral cats was removed from the bird sanctuary and inside the “buffer zone” around the bird sanctuary, and with the program in place new cats found or dumped in the bird sanctuary or “buffer zones” can be handled immediately.  (Implementing a Community Trap-Neuter-Return Program, Bryan Kortis, Humane Society of the United States, http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/pets/implementing_community_tnr_pt1.pdf).  This program is still in effect and has proven very successful for this city. The controlled, organized, and continuous management of feral cats in this city has helped the community by providing effective alternatives for feral cat management while protecting the indigenous bird species that is unique to that town and can be one of many options for United States’ municipalities.

VIII. WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA: CRUELTY PREVENTION

West Hollywood is known for progressive stance in the animal control field and has passed several ordinances that are first of their kind.  The City’s main concern when it comes to animal care and regulation is prevention of cruelty and cruel practices that animals may endure in certain situations.  For example, in 2005 the city of West Hollywood passed a unique and first of its kind ordinance banning the declawing of felines, known as “onychectomy”.  In addition, West Hollywood has also banned retail sales of cats and dogs and implemented breeding licenses, limiting amount of litters.  This multi-pronged approach for the prevention of animal cruelty has shown effective for the city of West Hollywood and could be an effective model code for other municipalities aimed at addressing animal cruelty at a local level.

A. Declawing

1. Municipal Code 9.49.020

In 2005, West Hollywood enacted a ban on declawing.  (See Section 9.49.020).  This ban makes it unlawful for any person to perform an onychectomy (declawing) by any means on any animal within the city except for therapeutic purposes.  A therapeutic purpose is any condition that requires declawing to address a medical issue that compromises the animal’s health. This ban actually created controversy in the community which led to a legal challenge in the courts.

2. Legal Challenges to the Ban

The first city in the United States to pass such an ordinance, West Hollywood was met with many challenges primarily from the veterinary field.  In the landmark case CVMA v. City of West Hollywood, the California Veterinary Medical Association challenged the ordinance due to a preemption of section 460. (CVMA v. City of West Hollywood, 61 Cal.Rptr.3d 318 Cal.App. 2 Dist., 2007).  California Veterinary Association claimed that section 460 does not allow local legislation to preempt state licensing boards by requiring additional licensing or other restrictions attached to the practice of veterinary medicine.  California trial court ruled in favor of the CVMA, however on appeal, the court reversed the ruling of the lower court stating that although the local ordinance cannot preempt section 460, local ordinances can regulate how a business is performed. In this case, local ordinances were able to regulate how veterinarians can practice veterinary medicine in the city, including procedures that are and are not allowed to be performed.  As controversial and emotional as this subject can be for cat lovers and veterinarians, the court did not speak to the nature of the procedure as either cruel or inhumane.  The focus of the court opinion was based on state and local preemption, rather than the practice itself.

3. Application of the Declawing Ban Outside of West Hollywood

West Hollywood’s reasoning behind the ordinance can help local municipalities determine whether this type of ordinance would be helpful in their community.  Declawing, or onychectomy, is defined as the amputation of the last joint of each toe including the bones. Research has shown declawing a cat usually leads to behavioral issues including increased biting due to lack of natural defenses, neurosis, and bladder problems.  (Several Cities Ban Declawing, Animal Law Coalition, http://animallawcoalition.com/several-ca-cities-ban-declawing/). Permanent lameness and arthritis can also result. A study published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medicine found declawing doubles the risk a cat will enter a shelter and found 33% of declawed cats developed at least one behavior issue and 80% had more than one medical complication.  (Declawing Cats: Manicure or Mutilation?, PETA,  http://www.peta.org/issues/companion-animals/declawing-cats-manicure-or-mutilation.aspx). Behavioral and medical issues are one of the major reasons pet owners surrender their animals to shelters.

These findings can be very influential in deciding to implement an ordinance banning declawing; however city municipalities should also be aware of the possibility that if declawing is banned individuals may choose to surrender their cats anyway due to destructive scratching.  If an individual has the option to surrender their animal due to destructive scratching or the option to declaw the cat and keep the cat, shelters would much rather see animal retention than surrender.  Cities must weigh these options when deciding what is best for their community. 

Other cities that currently have this ban are all located in California and include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Berkeley, Culver City, and Burbank.

B. Breeding Licenses

1. Municipal Code 10.20.045

Another ordinance aimed at the humane treatment and prevention of cruelty to animals is licensing that restricts breeding of animals.  This ordinance, called a “breeding license”, is more popular and commonly found around the United States.  The city of West Hollywood has implemented one of the stricter breeding license ordinances in the country, allowing for one litter per female dog, one litter per household, and one “offering” of a male dog or cat for “stud”.  Differential licensing was discussed earlier (See Section VID) and the breeding license is a form of differential licensing.  Typically animal owners with unaltered animals will have to pay an increased licensing fee, and if they plan to breed their unaltered animal, another breeding licensing fee is required. 

2. Breeding Licenses and Puppy Mills

The primary purpose for this ordinance is to control “puppy mills” and “backyard breeders”, also known as “accidental breeders”.  By regulating this group of individuals, the belief is animal control agencies will be able to combat an area that contributes to animal overpopulation.  (What the General Practitioner Needs to Know about Pennsylvania Animal Law, Debbie Jugan, 77 Pa. B.A. Q. 80 (2006)). 

Puppy mills are a national concern and can lead to many negative consequences for municipalities according to one law review article.  (What the General Practitioner Needs to Know about Pennsylvania Animal Law, Debbie Jugan, 77 Pa. B.A. Q. 80 (2006)).  This article states that puppy mills can produce sick puppies resulting in shelter surrenders, hoarding situations that result in dogs and puppies being taken to shelters, and a negative impact on the environment due to the amount of waste produced and dumped as a result of a large amount of dogs.  (What the General Practitioner Needs to Know about Pennsylvania Animal Law, Debbie Jugan, 77 Pa. B.A. Q. 80 (2006)). 

3. Breeding License Challenges

Breeding licenses are fairly common throughout municipalities in the United States; one common concern when establishing a breeding license is enforcement.  These types of ordinances require community awareness and involvement.  Typically animal control agencies will need to rely on individuals in a community to report unlicensed or backyard breeders and be able to enforce the license requirement if a violation is found.   (What the General Practitioner Needs to Know about Pennsylvania Animal Law, Debbie Jugan, 77 Pa. B.A. Q. 80 (2006)).  A model code can be found at www.animaladvocates.com/dog-breeding/ordinances.php to assist animal control agencies and cities.

C. Retail Sales of Pets

1. Municipal Code 9.50.020

Passed in 2011, this code reads: “No pet store shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise transfer or dispose of dogs or cats in the City of West Hollywood on or after the effective date of the ordinance codified in this chapter.”  (See Section 9.50.020).  Exceptions include animal shelters, individuals possessing a breeding license and selling dogs or cats born and reared on the premises, non-profit animal rescue, non-profit animal rescue or shelter that operates out of a pet store. 

2. Purpose

Since puppy mill breeding was one of the concerns behind the implementation of the breeding license, sales of dogs and cats in retail stores posed an issue for West Hollywood as well.  It is suggested that many dogs and cats that are used as inventory in retail pet stores are products of puppy mills or irresponsible breeding.  In addition to breeding licenses, West Hollywood also passed an ordinance that banned the sales of cats and dogs in retail stores in hopes of deterring mass breeding of dogs and cats. 

Many of the same reasons behind establishing breeding licenses are relevant to the ban of retail sales of dogs and cats.  West Hollywood not only hopes to prevent cruelty to animals, the city also seeks a reduction in the overall animal population while making sure animals within its city limits are provided with adequate and humane care according to their ordinances.

D. Application of West Hollywood Code on Other Cities

The three ordinances discussed in this section are very unique to West Hollywood. Based on the community needs and desires, these ordinances, although rare, work well for this city and their residents.  These ordinances will not be effective in all municipalities and city officials and animal control agencies need to take into consideration the culture and desires of their own community.  A balance between effective ordinances to combat current animal issues and ordinances that do not result overly strict consequences resulting in surrendering or losing an owned animal should be addressed.

IX. TUCSON, ARIZONA: ANTI-TETHERING LAWS

Similar to West Hollywood’s progressive ordinances on declawing, retail sales, and breeding, towns across the United States have begun to pass ordinances that address chained, or tethered, dogs on owners’ property.  Anti-tethering proponents seek to eliminate some of the dangers to dogs and people caused by excessive chaining or tethering of dogs.  Indeed, anti-tethering laws have become a hot topic for local governments.  (A Dog’s Best Friend: California’s New Animal Cruelty Protections, Robert D. Roth, 38 McGeorge L.Rev. 230 (2007)). 

A. What is an Anti-Tethering Law?

In Tucson, Arizona, chaining or tethering of any type is prohibited.  Tucson’s anti-tethering law reads “tieouts are prohibited”.  (See Section 4-3(2)(e)(2)).  While Tucson is an example of a complete ban on tethering, there essentially exists three types of tethering ordinances.  The first is the total ban on tethering, which was already discussed as with Tucson, stating where any form of tethering or chaining a dog on the owner’s property is prohibited.  Second, an ordinance may limit tethering by amount of time tethered; for example, no more than three hours tethered outside on owners’ property.  Lastly, there is tethering permitted as long as other conditions are met, such as access to clean water and food as well as providing a chain that limits injury to a dog.  (Anti-Chaining Laws City Lists and Resources, Unchain Your Dog.Org, www.unchainyourdog.org/laws.htm).  The advantages, disadvantages, and how dogs can be affected are covered in the following areas below.

B. Does Anti-Tethering Work?

While anti-tethering laws are becoming more popular, the main focus of these laws for animal control agencies is to reduce incidences of bites and attacks and ensure proper care and maintenance of owned dogs.  Research has shown tethered dogs exhibit some common characteristics that are risk factors to both dogs and humans.  These characteristics include aggressiveness, lack of socialization, dominance aggression, poor health, fear behavior, and are rarely vaccinated posing potential disease threats. (Chaining, Being Males, and Other Causes of Dog Bites, Kenneth Morgan Philips, www.dogbitelaw.com/why-dogs-bite-people/chaining-being-male-other-causes-of-dog-bites.html); (Anti-Chaining Laws City Lists and Resources, Unchain Your Dog.Org, www.unchainyourdog.org/laws.htm).  Additionally, many sources report that chained dogs are two-three times more likely to bite or attack than unchained dogs.  Chained dogs are more likely to bite or attack because, along with the aforementioned characteristics, chained dogs do not have anywhere to run when approached by a stranger and the only response left is to fight.  (Dog Bites: Dog Bite Statistics, American Humane Association, www.americanhumane.org/animals/stop-animal-abuse/fact-sheets/dog-bites.html).  Chained dogs are also more likely to be unaltered, which also results in heightened aggression when combined with tethering. (The Facts About Chaining and Tethering, The Humane Society of the United States, http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/chaining_tethering/facts/chaining_tethering_facts.html).  

Many tethered dogs also have bleak outcomes including being stolen for medical research, bait for dog fights, and death due to lack of food, clean water and shelter.  (Anti-Chaining Laws City Lists and Resources, Unchain Your Dog.Org, www.unchainyourdog.org/laws).  Cities that impose anti-tethering ordinances are attempting to address incidences of dog bites and way to decrease those occurrences.  A study done by the American Veterinary Association titled, "A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention," is one of the primary texts animal control agencies and city governments use to address bite incidences.  (Task Force on Canine Aggression, 2001).  This study outlines how to prevent dog bites and attacks within a community, citing tethered dogs as one of the contributing characteristics of dogs that attack.  This text coupled with research previously discussed can aid a city municipality to determine the best type of anti-tethering ordinance should they chose to implement one.

When considering whether anti-tethering laws, municipalities need to consider that chaining alone is not the only indication of aggression and potential attacks.  Chained dogs are also more likely to be unaltered male dogs. (Chaining, Being Males, and Other Causes of Dog Bites, Kenneth Morgan Philips, www.dogbitelaw.com/why-dogs-bite-people/chaining-being-male-other-causes-of-dog-bites.html).  Chained dogs are typically used for protection and not as the inside family pet, thus the question for local governments is whether chained dogs are more aggressive or if more aggressive dogs are more typically used as tethered protectors.  City officials will know the community needs and culture and be able to decide the best tethering laws, should they chose to pass, for their residents and area.

C. Current Cities and Trends that Address Anti-Tethering

There are currently around a dozen states and two dozen cities that have completely barred tethering.  More cities are enacting ordinances that require specific conditions be met in order for tethering to be allowed.  A complete list of the states and cities can be found at: www.unchainyourdog.org/Laws.htm.  Additionally sample anti-tethering ordinances can be found here: http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/pets/sample-chaining-ordinances.pdf.      

X. MODEL CODE CHARACTERISTICS

While the previous sections demonstrated some recent animal issues communities have addressed, having only controversial or debatable ordinances may not make the best code.  Instead, the best municipal codes for cities to adopt include several important characteristics that lead to their effectiveness.  Local government support is very important to ensure enforcement and regularly updated and easily understandable codes are helpful for the public in order to know what is expected of them in their community.  Moreover, all shelters should participate in spaying and neutering of their animals that leave the shelter because this practice supports the community model of all animals being spayed and neutered.  It can be confusing to individuals that are encouraged to spay and neuter their animals, but see that their local shelter does not fully participate in this practice.   Animal control agencies are encouraged to provide incentives for spay or neutering, and provide access to resources in order to make it possible for their citizens to accomplish spay and neutering their animals when that goal is financially difficult.   City’s need to possess adequate equipment and facilities, and have animal control officers and personnel specifically trained to respond effectively.  Generally, this includes an animal care facility (shelter), one animal control officer per every 25,000 residents, and training in vaccination protocol, dangerous or feral animals, and sanitation in a shelter setting.  Having the sheriff or police department handle animal control is not recommended.  A municipality should also have good working relationships with local veterinarians, police, social services, and rescues.  Being able to call for support or medical advice from these individuals will help animal control agencies in areas that they are less familiar with.  Lastly, implementing a public education program will help residents understand ordinances in their area, know about resources that are available to them and where to go for support, and learn proper care and keeping of their own animal.  (Handy, Geoffrey L. Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 2001). 

Additionally, a city’s animal control program is suggested to be primarily responsible for the following: enforce laws promoting health and safety, handle nuisance complaints in a timely manner, investigate abuse and neglect, rescue mistreated animals, reunite lost pets, adopt out healthy animals, euthanize animals (unclaimed, sick, or not adopted), promote mandatory licensing, promote spay and neutering, and promote education.  (Handy, Geoffrey L. Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Washington D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 2001).

Model codes should have substantive rules, ability to enforce, and have substantial funding to ensure enforcement and implementation.  It is important for animal control officers and administrators to understand the differences in different animal owners.  Some animal control owners  have resources and the ability to spay or neuter or want to spay or neuter but are low income and need assistance, and some residents do not have an opinion on spay or neutering.  Some animal owners own service animals or working dogs who are used for breeding because of the unique characteristics of that breed that allow to work well as service animals.  There are owners that are responsible breeders, and then there are some who are irresponsible breeders.  Animal control agencies typically work best when implementing complementary ordinances such as restricting pet store sales of animals and then offering reduced licensing fees for altered animals.  Lastly, animal control agencies should not invoke criminal sanctions for minor violations and instead use the civil court arena.  There is a greater social stigma when criminal charges are imposed and many criminal charges could mean the animal loses their home while owner is in jail for a violation of not licensing.  The civil charges should impose a monetary amount that is low enough for people to pay, but high enough that the fine discourages people from violating in the future.  (A Fresh Look at Spay/Neuter Legislation: The Journey to a Middle Ground, Gemma N. Zanowski, https://lawlib.wlu.edu/lexopus/works/669-1.pdf)

All of these suggestions come from Gemma Zanowski’s article and the Animal Control Management Guide, two texts that have assisted municipalities in achieving a code that suits their community needs while addressing differences in culture, geographic area, and social and income status.  There is a model code in the appendix of the Animal Control Management Guide as well to assist animal control agencies.

XI. CONCLUSION

The world of animal control and ordinance is one of trial, error, and emotions.  Animals are deeply loved by their human counterparts; however, animals are also seen as nuisances or property.  When emotions become a big part of how an area of the law is regulated, many times avenues are pursued that are not always effective or properly researched.  Law-makers and city officials have to learn to balance the needs of a community, especially communities that are made up of diverse backgrounds and interests including devoted animal lovers, business owners, breeding enthusiasts, the common pet owner, and non-owners of animals.  The four main ordinances discussed in this topic area have only recently been studied as to their effectiveness with mixed findings.  However, among the research, what is most emphasized is public acceptance and approval of ordinances.  Thus, even though one of these ordinances may or may not work, if the public feels strongly, city officials are encouraged to adopt, enforce, and seek community involvement to support executing it.

The best information that can be gained from this paper is the importance of cultural and geographic differences when choosing municipal ordinances that govern the ownership and care of animals.  Local governments best know the community and residents’ needs specific to the topics covered in this paper and are best handled at the local level.  Continued research and case studies will be more effective for animal control agencies in order to approach the topics more realistically and effectively.  Currently these topics have a tendency to be overwhelmed by emotions of community members, and as some research points out, ordinances that are strongly encouraged by the majority of community members with little research to support them are still passed and enforced.  The true test of a successful municipal code is community acceptance, promotion of community health and welfare, economical effectiveness, and humane treatment of animals. 

 

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