Commissioners pass animal regulation ordinance 3-0

Commissioners pass animal regulation ordinance 3-0
Posted on 11/15/2016

The La Plata County Board of Commissioners on  Dec. 13 unanimously passed an ordinance to amend Chapter 10 of the La Plata County Code governing animal licensing, control and treatment.

Animal control & licensing regulations

Background
Based on concerns from county residents about nuisance barking, the Board directed staff to review and amend the County's code to address this issue.  In addition, changes to state law and policies on investigations into allegations of animal cruelty and required vaccination, among other issues, necessitated the need to an update to Chapter 10 of our code.  

Based on input from stakeholders, such as the La Plata County Humane Society, the La Plata County Sheriff's Office, court staff from the Sixth Judicial District and the District Attorney's Office, the regulations were developed to encompass several topics, including: 

Dogs at large
The code amendments modify the definition of dogs at large, generally deeming dogs, other than working dogs, to be at large when off the premises of their owner and not under physical restraint or immediate command.

Nuisance barking
The code defines and prohibits nuisance barking and establishes a series of penalties for violations of this provision. By definition, barking, howling, yelping or whining noises that last for a continuous 20 minutes are a per se nuisance under the code. Additionally, such noises lasting for less than 20 minutes also constitute nuisance barking if such noises disturb the peace of a reasonable person.

Penalties for Nuisance Barking 

The code establishes a multi-tiered penalty protocol that begins with a warning notice after receiving a written complaint from one neighbor attesting to the nuisance barking. The animal's owner will then have 10 days to correct the problem before a citation or summons and complaint can be issued.

If the issue is not resolved after 10 days and within six months of the issuance of a warning, an animal control officer may issue a citation for subsequent nuisance barking, provided that one neighbor or complainant signs a written statement attesting to the noise. If a second offense is charged within six months of the first citation or summons, an additional citation or summons may be issued without a preceding warning notice.

Defenses & Exemptions
In all cases, provocation of a dog is an affirmative defense to nuisance barking charges. Working dogs engaged in activities defined by the code, veterinary hospitals and licensed facilities are exempt from nuisance barking provisions. Guard dogs are not.

Cruelty to animals
The code amendments prohibit cruelty to animals, including livestock.  If an animal control officer has probable cause to believe that any animal is abandoned, neglected or mistreated or otherwise subject to cruelty, the animal may be seized and impounded.

Guard dogs, working dogs & vicious or dangerous animals
A guard dog is defined as one kept at any location in unincorporated La Plata County trained for protection or to attack persons. Guard dogs must be registered annually and confined properly with clear and adequate warning to indicate the animal's presence. A guard dog is separate from a working dog.

A working dog is one that is actually working livestock; guarding livestock from predators in the presence and immediate command of the owner or on property owned, leased or expressly permitted to be used by the owner; locating or retrieving wild game in season for a licensed hunter; assisting law enforcement officers; assisting in rescue efforts; or being trained for any of these pursuits. A dog that is not on the premises owned, leased or permitted for use by the owner or a dog that is harassing people, domestic animals or wildlife in a public right-of-way will not be deemed working in that instance.

Any animal found by a court to have inflicted bodily injury or demonstrated tendencies that would cause a reasonable person to believe it might inflict bodily injury must be registered as a viscous animal annually and appropriately confined in a pen, kennel or run approved by an animal control officer - or on a leash no longer than four feet and under direct control by someone 18 years or older.

Please contact Megan Graham at (970) 382-6265 or megan.graham@co.laplata.co.us with any questions.