Within the past 30 days, The Dickinson Police Department has received over 45 calls for service concerning animals within the city’s limits. While the causes for each call are as diverse as barking complaints to reports of unattended animals running after local citizens, the overwhelming message of this high volume of public grievance is clear — there are simply too many abandoned pets in Dickinson.
The reason for this overabundance of strays, especially at this time of year, often lies within the way many would-be pet owners misunderstand the responsibility of their new charges. According to Dr. Kim Brummond, a veterinarian and board member at West Dakota Veterinary Clinic (Oreo’s Animal Rescue), puppies and kittens are regularly given as gifts throughout this time of year, only to be deserted once the animal grows into maturity or the obligation of rearing it becomes too much.
“The chief time people abandon animals are the holidays and shortly after the holidays, because the novelty of the new pet has worn off, or it becomes an adult or because they find out that new puppies don’t come house broken,” Brummond told The Press. “They’ll get a puppy and decide, well, ‘I don’t want it,’ or ‘I’m going to move.’ There’s definitely an increase of people dumping animals around this time.”
Citing Chapter Five of the City Code, Dickinson’s Animal Control Division, which prefers to practice a “no kill” policy on all animals that are impounded, reminds the public on its website that “nuisance animal” is defined as one that “Frequently frightens, annoys, barks at, or chases any person or vehicle; does not have current rabies vaccination; does not wear a city license and/or rabies tag; a female in heat not kept indoors; not vaccinated against rabies and/or distemper; not wearing a city license; damages any property not owned by the dog’s owner; runs at large off of the owner’s property.”
Section two of Chapter Five also categorizes an animal “at large” as “an animal off the premises of the owner, and not under the control of the owner or a member of his immediate family by a reasonable length leash, cord or chain.”
These expansive definitions authorize “every police officer and animal control officer to apprehend any dog or cat found at large or found to be a public nuisance as provided in this article, and to impound such dog or cat in the city animal shelter or other suitable place.”
If an impounded pet’s owner fails to make arrangements within 10 days of receiving notice that their animal was captured, the animal may be destroyed by the city or given to another person who is willing to adopt the animal and commits to licensing, vaccinating, and spaying or neutering the animal.
“It is a major concern,” Brummond said of this post-holiday upsurge in pet abandonment. “I think people need to research getting a pet, they need to be in a situation where they can afford it financially, and they need to be in a situation where they can maintain the animal’s health: feed and care for it. If you can’t do these things for a long term — if you can’t make a commitment to an animal — then you shouldn’t be getting a pet.”