Every city has a different set of rules to follow and Animal Control Officers can enforce them differently, even in the same town! This guide aims to clear up some of the most common misconceptions.
Can Animal Control Officers come onto my property without my permission?
Yes. If an Animal Control Officer (ACO) see an animal in distress or a violation in plain view, they can go onto your property or yard to help the animal or take the animal from the premises. The ACO will usually attempt to locate the owner before taking the animal and issue a ticket for the violations. An ACO can even ask for a judge to sign a search warrant for the premises if there is probable cause to enter for the health and welfare of an animal.
What good are city licenses for pets? Aren't they just revenue for the city?
City licenses help ensure your pet is your pet. Similar to a microchip, they are a source of identification for your pet if it were to get lose. In Kansas City, MO (where my firm is located), there is a free ride home program for pets with current city licenses for the first at-large offense (meaning your pet got lose and was picked up by an animal control officer). Why wouldn't you want your pet to have a free ride home? Also, the fee helps pay for the costs associated with having pets in the city. Maintaining dog parks, running animal dockets (if your city has one), and paying animal control officers are huge costs but they greatly benefit the city.
Are there any illegal breeds?
Breed specific legislation is a hot topic among those involved with animal welfare. In addition to the several types of exotic breeds and dangerous animals banned by several states, there are bans on domestic pets, as well. You can see what breeds are banned in my state by looking up Missouri Revised Statutes Section 578.023 (sorry if you really wanted a pet Ocelot, Archer fans). Unfortunately, some private companies and cities ban certain breeds. Private companies, namely rental and property agencies, ban "dangerous" breeds to protect other tenants and keep their insurance premiums low. Cities ban breeds in a misguided effort to curtail dog attacks.
Can any pet be a service animal?
The short answer is no. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that defines service animals as only specially trained dogs and sometimes miniature horses. Furthermore, the law states that emotional support animals are not service animals under the ADA. Only service animals can accompany a person to any place without issue. There may be a medical necessity for an emotional support animal, which can be taken up on an individual basis for housing or educational purposes. However, you'll probably be asked to leave if you try to bring your emotional support dog to a restaurant or similar establishment.
Can you go to jail for animal ordinance violation?
Yes, it is possible to go to jail. The likelihood of jail time on a first offense is very low, though. Nevertheless, this is why it is important to hire an attorney if you find out your violation carries a potential jail sentence. Some ordinances--usually abuse and neglect ordinances--carry a maximum sentence of six (6) months in jail and/or a fine of $250.00 for each violation. Let's look again at Kansas City, MO. If you leave your dog outside without enough food or water and the dog has no shelter while you're out of town for the weekend, you run a serious risk of getting into legal trouble. No food is one violation. No water is another violation. No shelter is yet another violation. And you could get ticketed for each of these per day. That could be six (6) separate violations! That's $1,500.00 plus court costs or three years in jail if they do a consecutive sentence. Granted, that's the worst possible scenario. Without an attorney to help you, that could be a possibility, though.
This dog barks all the time! What can I do?
Look up your local city noise ordinance or animal noise ordinance to see what are designated quiet times. In Kansas City, MO, there are certain decibel levels acceptable between 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM, but any continuous or excessive noises by animals within 100 yards of the offended person is a violation during that time. First, if possible, contact the neighbor to let him or her know this is happening! Sometimes the person is not aware. If you have a Home Owners Association (HOA) in your neighborhood or condo, contact them to speak to the neighbor. We urge people to speak to their neighbors first to solve the problem to avoid escalating the matter and causing problems in your neighborhood. If contacting the neighbor or HOA does not solve anything, call animal control to give a statement in order for the issue to be investigated. Write down all the times it wakes/keeps you up.
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