This week, we adopted another dog, Atlatl (see adorable picture). She’s a Labrador/wolf hound/mut mix of love and energy. This got me thinking about dogs and the law. Dogs and pets in general are regulated by a combination of state, county, and municipal laws.
In town. Utah allows municipalities to license, tax, regulate, or prohibit keeping dogs. Some towns require annual licensing of your furry friend or facing fines and extra fines if your dog has to be taken to the pound.
Municipalities can also limit the number of dogs and pets you can have on your property. Some towns have lot size requirements, number of dog requirements, or both.
Lastly, your town may have ordinances about barking. Most towns limit barking to a “reasonable” amount. “Reasonable” is measured by what an average person can handle. I, for one, am not a fan of the all-nighter howling or barking and I bet your neighbors are not either.
Liabilities of ownership. If you own a dog, you are responsible for any damage done by the dog to property or other people. The owner is responsible even if the dog’s actions were a mistake and regardless if the dog acted vicious or mischievous. The law has caveats for our police officer’s puppy patrol.
Domestic animals. Keep your dog away from domestic animals. If your dog worries, chases, or attacks domestic animals (such as horses, cows, alpacas, or sheep) or fowl (such as ducks, chickens, geese), any person may injure or kill the dog. I’ve had a dog put down for these reasons as a child, and it taught me a life lesson while breaking my heart. I recommend before any action is taken, that the people involved with the dog and domestic animals look for a resolution before taking further actions.
Breed limitations. On a lighter note, the state of Utah does not allow towns to create breed-specific rules, regulations, or policies about dogs. This means that Notom, if incorporated, could not deny its population the ability to own any kind of dog the people wanted, as long as the other municipal requirements were met.
Animal cruelty. If a person intentionally fails to care for, abandon, injures, or kills a dog, the person can face a misdemeanor charge including fines and jail time. The law includes the caveats for chasing domestic animals, putting dogs down for suffering reasons, or removing abandoned pets found on your property. If someone is being cruel to an animal, contact your local sheriff’s office or county attorney to report the incident.
Pet trusts. If you are thinking about estate planning and considering your pets, you can create a pet trust that includes assets and equipment for long term care for your pets.
Adoptions. Lastly, when considering adding a new pet to your family, consider looking at the options at your local pound and rescue organizations. By adopting from a pound, you can reduce the government’s cost of taking care of the dog. Some counties and municipalities do not have a pound and rely on rescue organizations. These organizations do a lot of work with their dogs to make the animals ready for their forever homes.
Being a dog person, I forget to think of cats and other pets you may own. The laws are similar with other pets and domesticated animals. Pets can play a large part in our lives by providing affection and comfort. Make sure you are following your local and state laws so you can continue to have your furry, slobbery, loving companion.
Published in the February 8, 2018 Wayne and Garfield County Insider.
Disclaimer. As always, my column is not legal advice, instead merely insight into the law and legal profession. If you have a general question about the law or legal profession, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.