Leashes, Licenses, Hours Outside, and Even Chickens in Oak Park Ordinance Changes

 

Leashes, Licenses, Hours Outside, and Even Chickens in Oak Park Ordinance Changes

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Aug. 17, 2020)

Oak Park, MI – Cats, dogs, and even chickens got some love from the Oak Park City Council Monday as the body approved the first reading of a package of animal-related ordinances.  Among them is a change that would allow for a one-year pilot program for the keeping of backyard chickens. Other changes clarified the expectations of pet owners, including shelter requirements, leash lengths, treatment of dangerous dogs, the banning of retail sales of animals and more.

Here’s a bit about each of the sections considered:

Sec. 14.2 – Charge or custody of animals: prohibited conduct

This section formerly stated that an owner or possessor shall not “fail to provide an animal with adequate care.”

This was amended to add “and shelter.”

Shelter must mean inside a residence, or “A doghouse that is an enclosed structure with a roof of appropriate dimensions for the breed and size of the dog and large enough for a dog to stand, turn around, and lie comfortable.  The doghouse shall have dry bedding when the outdoor temperature is or is predicted to drop below freezing.  Housing a dog inside a garage or shed is not considered adequate shelter and is banned within the city.”

Council also clarified that if a pet is kept outsides on a tether/leash, it must be at least three times the length of the dog as measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tale, with a minimum of ten feet regardless of the pooch’s size.  Other provisions detail the weight, type, and manner of tethering.

Lastly dogs of any size are not to be unattended outdoors between midnight and 7am, or when there is severe weather including heat advisory, wind chill warning, and winter storm warning.

Sec. 14-5 Keeping of Animals and fowl

This ordinance section was updated to clarify some animals that are considered pets (including dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, hamsters etc) and those that are not pets (including pigs, horses, sheep, exotic animals etc).

It also removed fowl from the prohibited list (to pave the way for the chicken pilot program)

Sec. 14-6 Humane Acquisition Ordinance   This section eliminates the retail selling of dogs, cats, ferrets, or rabbits.

Animals may still be adopted through animal rescue organizations.  It also allows adoptions to take place in pet stores if the pet store is working with a rescue organization or animal control agency.

If the ordinance passes the second reading, existing pet stores have until Jan. 1, 2021 to stop selling the animals.

14.7 Domestic Chickens

If the ordinance passes second reading, the City will launch a one-year pilot program to allow the keeping of hens (not roosters) in a proper pen.

“Any person residing in a single-family detached dwelling on residential zoned one family dwelling district property (R-1), after obtaining an annual permit from the city,  may keep, per household, not more than three hen (female) chickens for personal use only and not for any business or commercial use. Chickens may be kept as family pets or to lay eggs for personal consumption only. Slaughtering of any chickens on the property is prohibited,” states the new ordinance section.

Five permits will be issued, with the owner agreeing to at least two inspections of the coop during the year pilot time.  The owner must get written permission from adjoining neighbors.  The ordinance gives more specifics about placement, construction requirements, upkeep, etc.  Once the ordinance passes second reading, those interested can contact City Hall to obtain an application after the second reading.

Article II – Dogs and Cats  This section outlines responsibilities of pet owners.

The owner of any dog or other animal shall be guilty of a violation of this Chapter if the owner does any of the following:

(1). Harbors and/or owns a vicious or dangerous dog as defined within this Article.

(2). Permits a dog to run at large as defined within this Article.

(3) Harbors or keeps any dog that is not licensed pursuant to the requirements of this Chapter.(4) The dog is at any time not under reasonable control.

(5) The animal causes a sanitation nuisance.

(6) The dog (except for leader dogs for the blind) discharges its feces on property other than that of its owners and the owner does not immediately remove such feces.

(7) The animal is vicious.(8). The dog is at a location other than as specified in a confinement order issued pursuant to this Chapter.

(9) The animal has symptoms of rabies or has bitten or been bitten by another animal showing symptoms of rabies and the owner fails to notify an Animal Control Officer of that fact.

(10) The owner fails to comply with all of the terms of a confinement order.

(11) The owner fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter from the weather.

(12) The owner fails to provide the animal with medical attention necessary to prevent the animal from suffering

Sec. 14-33 Judicial Proceedings regarding dangerous dogs  This is a new section that would bring Oak Park in line with the state law which gives judges the right to determine if a dog is dangerous.

Previously an animal control officer could make that determination and remove an animal from a home if it exhibited dangerous behavior, such as biting.  Now, per Michigan law, a judge must hear about the reasoning and be the one to make the decision.  Instead of just ending the lives of potentially dangerous animals, a judge has a variety of tools they can now use per their discretion, including sterilization, tattooing the dog’s thigh so if the dog is involved in future encounters the parties can know it had past incidents, adding  more security such as higher fences, adding insurance, and other measures deemed appropriate to protect people and property.  The judge may still order the destruction of an animal if they feel that’s appropriate.

Division 2 Sec. 14-49 Fees  Oak Park City council is considering adding a provision to waive licensing fees for service dogs, dogs owned by a legal entity that does such training, any foster animals for up to 180 days, and pets used in law enforcement. 

The State of Michigan limits the number of animals to 3 per household, with any more requiring a kennel license. Oak Park’s ordinance is in line with the state law, though many may not realize this limitation exists throughout the entire state.

14-54 Kennel licenses  The rule about kennel licenses is further explained in this section, nothing that animals younger than six months of age are not included in the household count.  For example, if a dog has puppies, the owner has six months to find homes for those that would put them over the limit.

Sec. 14-55 Violations  Also to align with state law, this section was added to establish the penalties for violating the ordinances.

“Unless  stated  otherwise  within  a  section,  violation  of  any  provision  of  this  chapter  shall  be  a  civil  infraction  punishable  by  a  fine of not more than $500.00, or imprisonment for not more than 30 days,   or   by   both   such   fine   and   imprisonment,   plus   costs   of   prosecution  and  remediation,  if  applicable,” it says.

“For  convenience  of  the  public   and   economic   in   enforcement,   public   safety   is   hereby   authorized  to  issue  violation  tickets  to  offenders  hereunder.  The  form  of  such  tickets  shall  be  approved  by  the  district  judge  and  the  chief  of  public  safety.  On  the  basis  of  the  issued  violation  ticket,  a  complaint  shall  be  filed  and  the  alleged  violator  shall  be  duly  tried  therein in the District Court.”

Council Discussion

Councilperson Regina Weiss was excited to vote on the ordinances.  “This will definitely clear up some confusion that has existed around our animal ordinances,” she said.

The chicken discussion did ruffle the feathers of Councilperson Carolyn Burns, who voted no.

“This is gonna be something that in a year we look back and say ‘this is so cool,’ or ‘wow, what the heck were we thinking?” said Councilperson Solomon Radner.  “But I’m ready to see which one it is, so I like this.”

Mayor Marian McClellan is optimistic.  “It has been successful in other cities, and hasn’t raised any squawking,” she said.

Councilperson Julie Edgar thanked the staff and the city attorney for their work on the ordinance overhauls.  “It’s meaningful,” she said.  “We moved the city a little further ahead with these ordinances. It shows that we care about animals and animal owners.”

The ordinances will have a second reading at the next council meeting.  For the full text see the City of Oak Park agenda packet.

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