Animal ordinance is being revised

The city of Dickinson is doing its spring cleaning a little early this year. Dickinson City Administrator Greg Sund and the Dickinson Police Department are working to revise Dickinson's animal ordinance. "We've run into some situations where we f...

The city of Dickinson is doing its spring cleaning a little early this year.

Dickinson City Administrator Greg Sund and the Dickinson Police Department are working to revise Dickinson's animal ordinance.

"We've run into some situations where we felt the ordinance doesn't necessarily address specific exotic animals," Sund said.

He said the ordinance originally covered dogs and cats, with some language about farm animals.

Sund said as more people own exotic pets, the city felt it was time to revisit the ordinance.


"What really precipitated looking at the ordinance again, we had a complaint of someone who had an alligator in town and it wasn't clear whether they could keep it," Sund said.

Sund said rather than revising one section, they opted to look at the entire ordinance.

"We looked at redeveloping that section of code so it works better and is better explained to people," Sund said.

There are some minor housecleaning changes in language, such as calling the pound an animal shelter and clarifying the animal warden is more of an animal control officer.

However, the ordinance does include some major changes for pet owners in town.

For exotic pet owners, the language clarifies that dangerous animals are not allowed in the city.

"The language under dangerous animals is more specific," Sund said. "It more deals with the physical attributes of the animal."

Sund said an animal at one size may not be considered dangerous, but at a bigger size it would become an issue for the city.


He also said the ordinance would address pet owners with exotic animals who live in apartment buildings.

"Other residents have some influence as to whether they consider it a safe situation," Sund said.

He said the exact language is still being considered.

Pet licenses

During a Dickinson City Commission meeting in January, the commissioners recognized the city has not done a good job of enforcing the licensing of animals.

The city is looking to make licensing of dogs and cats easier by making it a one-time fee.

Sund said it is also possible the city would not charge any more than the current $10 fee, which is supposed to be renewed every other year.

"Our goal is get animals licensed and identified so that if they were picked up running at large...we would be able to quickly identify who the owner is," Sund said.


The revised ordinance has harsher penalties for unlicensed pets. In the ordinance, if dogs and cats are not licensed, owners could be forced to surrender their pets.

"People who lose their pet, and it is not licensed, there is a possibility we could end up destroying it if we cannot get a hold of the owner," Sund said. "That clearly is not what we want to do."

Sund said destroying an animal has not been done in the city for quite awhile.

"For the most part now, we're working with Oreo's (Animal Rescue) project," Sund said. "They do everything they can to adopt an animal out. That's their ultimate goal, and we're willing to work with groups like that."

Sund said exotic pets would not be subject to licensing requirements because it would be too difficult to register and keep track of them all.

Other issues

The city originally considered removing language prohibiting pit bulls. It has been re-inserted, but Sund said language has also been added on vicious animals in general.

The city is also clarifying language about public nuisances.


Sund said if a person leaves his animal unattended where it is outside and bothersome to neighbors, then the pet is considered a nuisance.

"As an animal owner, you are responsible for it," Sund said.

The revised ordinance also gives the city the ability to designate the animal shelter.

Sund said the language gives the city more flexibility, but that ultimately it would keep ownership.

"We always have to be able to revert back if for some reason the non-profit would become inactive or lose membership," Sund said. "We have to plan for some contingencies."

There are also likely to be revisions on various penalties for violating any section of code.

Sund said most of the codes have administrative penalties. However, he said offenses such as keeping a dangerous animal, could be more serious.

He said to show the city clearly does not want dangerous animals in town, it would be willing to penalize those people more harshly to change their behavior.


Sund made the commissioners aware during the Jan. 16 meeting that the ordinance is being revised.

"We don't have it in final form yet; we're still discussing it," Sund said.

He said when the ordinance is presented to the commission, it is likely there would be at least one public hearing to allow citizens to provide input on the issue.

What To Read Next
Get Local