Owning a dog seems so easy. Just feed it and walk it, right? Well, not quite. There are many laws relating to animal ownership and responsibility. Working at the municipal court, I’m always a bit surprised by how many people come in with a dog violation ticket claiming they had no knowledge of the law. The statutes governing pet ownership are designed to keep both pets and people safe and help us all live together harmoniously.
Generally, when a complaint about an animal is received, one of the City’s Community Service Officers (CSO) or a patrol officer is sent to respond. Should the officers discover a violation, they have a number of options for how to proceed.
First, they can issue a warning. The main goal of CSOs is education. They want citizens to understand the rules of pet ownership.
Second, they may issue what’s called a “fix-it” ticket. Similar to vehicle infractions such as a broken headlight, an animal fix-it ticket provides the owner with a certain amount of time to correct the issue. An example would be dog licensing. An individual may be given a ticket which will be dismissed if they obtain a license within a delineated number of days.
Third, the owner may be given an infraction ticket which is not fixable. This type of ticket simply assesses a fine which needs to be paid for the violation. With animals, this is frequently a ticket for running at large, which means that the pet was out without a leash.
Finally, the officer may issue a summons. A summons is an order to appear in court to respond to the charge. These have no set fine amount and require the owner to come to court to resolve the issue.
I asked Community Service and Animal Control Officer Dawn Neely to provide a breakdown to help pet owners understand the laws. Here are the things everyone who owns a pet in Rifle needs to know. Most importantly, if you have any questions or are unclear about your duties, don’t hesitate to contact Officer Neely. Further, the entire Rifle Municipal Code can be found on the City website, www.rifleco.org. which can be translated into Spanish with the push of a button. Animal laws are found in Chapter 7. After all, education is the primary goal.
- Leash Law - Your dog must always be on a leash when it is outside of your home or fenced yard. This includes all parks and trails in Rifle. The first violation is $50 per dog!
- Barking Dogs - Be mindful of your neighbors and try to keep your dog from causing a disturbance by barking in a loud, repetitive or excessive manner. It is unlawful for any animal owner to allow their animal to cause a noise disturbance. Be aware that normal neighborhood noise is allowed; expect to hear vehicle traffic, kids playing, basketballs bouncing and both people and dogs talking.
- Clean Up After Your Dog - Not picking up after your dog and disposing of its feces properly could result in a fine or a mandatory court appearance.
- City Dog Licenses Required - Dog licenses are available at Rifle Police Department, City Hall (Finance Department), Town & Country Vet, Valley Vet, and Rifle Animal Shelter.
- Bring your current rabies certificate or tag
- $10 for spayed/neutered dogs
- $20 for intact dogs
- Good for one year
- City Dog License Tag must be attached to your dog’s collar
- County Dog Licenses are required for county residents
- Proof of current Rabies vaccination is required for all dogs, cats, and ferrets four months old or older.
- Summer Safety Tips – Make sure your pet has unlimited access to fresh water and shade when outside. Stay off hot surfaces like asphalt because it can burn your pet’s paws. And, don’t leave your pet in the car when temperatures rise over 70 degrees Fahrenheit!
- Winter Safety Tips- Bring your pet inside for the winter if at all possible. Outside pets must have a warm, windproof shelter with sufficient dry bedding and possibly a safe heat source to keep the pet warm. Keep pets away from car antifreeze; as little as 2 teaspoons can be lethal to a small animal. Ice melters and salts can irritate or burn your pet’s feet. Be sure to wash off any exposed areas, such as your pet’s feet or belly.
Things I wish folks knew
- Anonymous callers limit our ability to do our jobs. It is best if we can contact the person making the report to let them know what our local ordinances are, as well as get complete information about the nature of the complaint. Some issues, like barking dogs, require two parties from different residences to file a complaint and they cannot be anonymous.
- Call the dispatch non-emergent number, (970) 625-8095, when the complaint is happening. This gives the officer on duty the best chance of resolving the issue. Please don’t wait weeks, months or even years hoping that the situation will somehow resolve.
Find the Rifle Municipal Code online at www.Rifleco.org, or call the non-emergency dispatch number (970) 625-8095
Dawn Neely is a Community Service and Animal Control Officer at the City of Rifle Police Department. Dawn joined the Community Service team in May 2013. She is certified as an Animal Control Officer and animal cruelty investigator, is a graduate of Oregon State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science, and did graduate studies and research in Veterinary Science at the University of Kentucky.
Kathy Pototsky, Public Information Officer, City of Rifle