No easy answer to growing number of strays

Incidents involving vicious and unrestrained animals in Dickinson have risen comparative to previous years and was the subject of discussion during the city commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

Bad dog. Stock photo.
Bad dog. Stock photo.

Incidents involving vicious and unrestrained animals in Dickinson have risen comparative to previous years and was the subject of discussion during the city commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

According to the Dickinson Police blotter, officers and animal control personnel responded to over 70 calls for service relating to animals roaming the streets of Dickinson over the previous 30 days.

The calls ranged from friendly orphans and stray to animal attacks which included residents being bitten or chased by animals.

"The number of vicious animal and nuisance complaints our office has seen this year is up from previous years," Christina M. Wenko, city prosecutor said. "Nearly all of our vicious animal complaints are related to bites."

The consequences for bad animal behavior may result in the animal's removal from city limits.


"Increases in dogs running at large and destroying property and increases in aggressive behavior, often resulting in animal bites, may require the animal to be removed from city limits," Wenko said during city council meeting on Tuesday.

The City of Dickinson animal shelter sees on average 59 stray and abandoned animals arrive at their door each year.

"The impound number may not be equal to the number of animals picked up by the Animal Control Officer because of situations like, owners retrieving the animal before it was impounded, the ACO officer returning the animal to the owner, the animal needing medical attention, or the animal being fostered by one of the local animal groups," Michele Thompson, Animal Control Officer with the Dickinson Police Department, said. "A majority of the calls are animal at large calls, followed by barking dogs and general animal complaints."

The Animal Control Division of Dickinson Police provide support services to the Patrol Division and is staffed by two civilian employees, according to their website. The primary function of the Animal Control Officer is to enforce city ordinances regarding pets and any other restrictions applying to wild animals or farm animals in the city.

All stray dogs and cats are taken to the Dickinson Animal Shelter located on the grounds of the new Public Works Building at 3405 Public Works Boulevard (off of Energy Drive in east Dickinson). The pound currently has twelve dog runs, each with a doggie-door allowing the dogs to wander in their own outside kennels. There are also 12 cat cages within the pound.

As advice to residents, Thompson said to never approach a loose animal if you are not familiar with animals.

"Most people who are familiar with animals can read an animal's temperament and can make an educated decision on whether they should approach the animal or not," she said. "License your animal, keep their shots up to date, make sure they are not unattended when out in public, use leashes and collars and make sure the area you keep the animal is escape proof."

All cats and dogs within the city limits are required by law to be licensed and have proof of current vaccinations. Licenses are provided through City Hall during normal business hours and


are valid for the life of the animal.

Cats and dogs must also be on a leash when the pet is unattended in an open yard or off of the owner's property according to the ordinance.

Animal rescue organizations recommend or sometimes require prospective pet owners to spay or neuter their pets.

Where much of the concern stems are the restrictions that no person shall harbor or keep more than three animals upon premises within the city limits unless the person obtains a special

use permit.

According to the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 200 million stray dogs worldwide. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates about 3.3 million dogs enter U.S. animal shelters every year, filling many to capacity.

A full transcript of the ordinance can be found online at

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