Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from Jul-Aug 2018 issue

Two-Way Street: Does Your City Require Pet Licenses?

City Clerk-Treasurer
Jasper (Population 609)

In Jasper, which is partly in Pipestone County and partly in Rock County in the southwest corner of the state, we require licenses for all cats and dogs that live in the city limits. This requirement was implemented in 2010, and we have found it keeps our residents accountable for their pets.

The pet owner must pay a license fee of $10 for each spayed or neutered animal, and $15 for each animal that is not spayed or neutered. Pets must also be vaccinated for rabies to obtain a city license.

The one-year license fee is payable for any part year that an animal is kept in the city limits, and there is no refund of the yearly license fee for an animal that dies or moves out of the city limits prior to the expiration of the one-year license issued.

Annual renewals
Owners must obtain a license within 30 days of getting a pet, and the license must be renewed annually. Licenses expire on March 31 each year, and owners are given a one-month grace period in which to renew.

If the license isn’t renewed by April 30, a late fee of $5 per license will be charged until May 31. After that date, the owner will be in violation of the ordinance. The city contracts with the Pipestone County Sheriff ’s Office to help enforce the licensing program.

Other requirements for pets
In addition to licensing, we have a few other requirements outlined in our pet ordinances.

One requirement is known as our “leash law,” and mandates that animals must be physically controlled by their owner or the person keeping the animal. To comply with the leash law, the person responsible for an animal can use a fence, cage, or leash to physically control the animal.

We also limit the number of pets a resident can have. Residents cannot have more than three adult household pets.

In addition, we have a noise control ordinance that says pets or other animals cannot disrupt the peace of neighbors by barking or making other noise during sleeping hours. And we have an ordinance stating that no person will keep or harbor an animal within the city limits if the animal is known to have vicious tendencies.

A good experience for all
Pets usually bring a lot of joy to their owners, but we have found it’s important to lay some ground rules to ensure a good experience for owners, pets, and the entire community.

City Administrator/Clerk-Treasurer
Littlefork (Population 626)

Dogs and cats have always been welcome in Littlefork, located in Koochiching County just south of the Canadian border. To ensure the safety of both the animals and residents, though, we require pet owners to comply with our pet ordinance. As part of the ordinance, we did require licenses for dogs, but we discontinued that this year.

We have never had a huge problem with dogs running at large, but a few have been famous for running away from home. A pet license was cheap, only $5, and assured that if your pet strayed, the owner could be easily identified. We also once had a dog catcher to enforce licensing and take care of strays. The City Council decided the cost of $250 per month did not justify the benefit, and eliminated the position in 2015.

New pet ordinance
Littlefork adopted the Minnesota Basic Code for small cities in 2015, and got a new pet ordinance as part of that process. It has basically the same requirements as the previous ordinance except the new code requires proof of vaccination to obtain a license.

Vaccinations were always required, but we had never asked for proof. This was met with some resistance by many of our pet owners, especially those who didn’t see the benefit of licensing in the first place.

A losing battle
With the new proof-of-vaccination requirement, the number of licenses we issued annually fell from around 45 to about 25. This prompted the question: Why are we fighting this battle to make people buy a $5 tag when the pet ordinance is not otherwise being violated?

The city’s cost for the tags, license book, advertising, and staff time to sell tags and track licenses was more than the money collected for tags. So, the Council discontinued the licensing requirement at the beginning of 2018.

New ‘no license’ policy is working
All other requirements of the pet ordinance remain in effect, including the leash law and the requirement to keep pet vaccinations current. We still recommend that people have their pets wear a rabies tag and another form of identification so their owners can be identified if they stray. So far, we have not had any more pet issues than usual. As for pets that wander from home, we have found that social media is a very powerful tool to help reunite them with their owners. It works well because Littlefork folks love their pets and try to look out for each other.

Read the July-Aug 2018 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

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