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Terri Baker, pictured above with her children and pets, serves with the Northern Kentucky Animal Control. In this capacity, she assists the Bellevue Police Department and the City of Bellevue, at-large, as animal control officer. Her deep love of animals has proven to be an asset in her job, as well as beneficial to residents of Bellevue.
Because pets play such a significant role in many of our daily lives, Terri has provided some important information on this page to keep the community informed about relevant laws, ordinances, and good practices as they relate to our animals.
I would like to update everyone on some new and old laws, as they pertain to our dogs. Responsible pet ownership is not always easy. Laws are changing, and more stringent laws pass elected boards often. Also, after much effort, we have a felony animal cruelty law here in Kentucky. "I didn’t know" is not an excuse. Ignorance of the law does not make you innocent. So, if you are a pet owner, take a moment to brush up on state statutes, county laws, and local ordinances. Below are only a few of the most common laws I enforce every day.Important state laws include the following.
* All dogs must have a rabies vaccination and wear their tag. A licensed veterinarian must give this vaccine. (No do-it-yourself vaccine!)
* Female dogs must be confined while in heat. Female dog owners are liable for territorial males becoming aggressive and wandering. A spayed female will never go to court for this violation—another good reason to spay your dog!
* Dogs running at-large from sunset to sunrise are in violation of state statute. Kentucky Revised Statutes allow police or animal control to kill such dogs. However, I feel court, fines, and altering are much more practical.
* All dogs must have adequate space, food, water, and vet care. If you can not afford to supply all of these, do you and your dog a favor and get rid of him or her. It is also illegal to beat, mutilate, torture, or kill a dog.Some Campbell County laws to be aware of include these.
* All dogs must have a county tag. This tag is only $5 and can be purchased at the shelter (859-635-2819) or the Fiscal Court building on Monmouth Street in Newport. You must show proof of rabies vaccination.
* All dogs that are housed outside for any period of time need adequate shelter. The definition of an adequate shelter requires a floor, roof, and sides. A plastic swimming pool turned upside down or "under the porch" are not adequate shelters.
* Dogs must be restrained while riding in the back of a pickup truck. For me, this was common sense, but now it is finally the law here. Isn't any unsecured cargo dangerous in traffic?
* A dangerous dog that acts aggressive or has bitten before has special requirements. Homeowners insurance may even cancel you or your landlord for harboring such a dog.
* If you feed a stray dog for three days or more, it is yours. You assume responsibility when you feed it; do not call animal control to pick it up.
* Any stray dog must be held for five days only before becoming property of the shelter.City ordinances vary. Bellevue's laws include some of the following.
* Pit bulls or pit mixes are considered dangerous animals. Muzzles and a leash while on public property are a must. They can not be chained up outside to any inanimate object such as a tree, fence, cable, porch, pole, truck, or car. Consider yourself lucky to even be able to own one. A lot of cities are banning them entirely. I recommend these dogs not be housed outside unattended. However, Bellevue's ordinance states if they must be housed outside, a kennel or pen with a top and a locked gate is required. This cannot touch the border of your property line. This gives people and the dog a visual boundary. Chained dogs bite more often than dogs that are not kept chained. I have to ask: what is the point in owning a dog if it is out back in a pen, ignored for most of its life?
* When walking your dog, on leash of course, you must pick up any stool left by your dog. This is not just a sanitary issue but a neighborly, respectful thing to do. Also do not forget your own yard. Be sanitary and scoop your yard regularly.
* Excessive barking is a nuisance at any hour—day or night. This is another great reason not to leave your dog out all day while you work. Your bored, unattended, and lonely dog can become a neighbor’s worst nightmare. My hope is that they like you and hate to complain, but your dog might be driving them crazy.
Did you know leash laws apply to cats, too? Does this mean you need to stress your cat out and try to leash-train him or her tonight? No! I do know a small number of patient cats (and owners) that have success with a harness and leash. It takes time to get your cat accustomed to this. So, please do not leash up the cat and put it outside. It could panic, entangle itself, choke, or cut off blood supply to a leg, paw, or tail. However, confinement is required. It's probably best to keep him or her indoors.
There are numerous health and safety reasons we have confinement laws for cats.
Please understand that my first concern is for the cats, more importantly the kittens born into neighborhoods every year. Feline leukemia and feline immune deficiency virus (FIV) are highly contagious in outdoor reproducing cats. Upper respiratory infections affect these cats in high numbers. Ruptured eyes are common from eye infections that are never treated. Many cats are hit by cars, poisoned, attacked by dogs and wildlife, or hurt by humans. Over 1,000 cats are euthanized in Campbell County every year. There is no holding time for cats in our county. A cat can be put to sleep the day it arrives at the shelter. If you think you are being responsible by finding homes for the kittens your cat produces, just think about the kittens at the shelter. You just took up a spot for one of those. For every kitten you place, the shelter just had to euthanize one.
My next concern is for the community. Citizens have the right to enjoy their yards without the smell and contamination of cat urine and feces. People feeding cats are not bothered by stool because cats typically will not eliminate where they reside and eat. They will urine mark (spray) anywhere. Also, there are diseases carried by cats that humans can contract from contact with infected stool, urine, or hair follicles. They never even have to encounter the cat—just what is left behind. Some of these problems, such as "antibiotic resistant salmonella" can cause a healthy adult to be hospitalized. A child or elderly person could, in the worst-case scenario, die. Toxoplasmosis can cause birth defects in a fetus, stillbirths, or even miscarriages. Ringworm is a fungal infection transmitted through the hair follicle. Children are usually the ones that get it and pass it around day cares, preschools, and kindergarten.
Cats are often roaming and rubbing elbows with your backyard wildlife. Your cat or the cats you feed will be the most common vector (source) in transferring rabies to humans. Rabies vaccinations are now required for cats (and ferrets) by our Kentucky state statutes. It has always been a requirement for dogs. State laws are finally changing for cats after all these years to ensure people are more responsible for them.
Free-roaming cats fall into four categories.
* Owned cats that are spayed/neutered and vaccinated. (These are my favorite; however I still have to fine them for running at-large. The first offense is $50, the second is $75, and the third offense is $100. After three offenses, we go to court.)
* Owned cats that are not spayed/neutered or vaccinated. (Fines are the same as above with an extra $50 for not being spayed/neutered. The city will reimburse the $50 if you get your animal altered within 30 days. We feel this incentive will help people see the importance of spaying and neutering, as well as to make the offenders that are creating the problems bear more financial responsibility. Any cat without a rabies vaccination will have to purchase a rabies voucher from the shelter. If the cat is impounded, it is $10. You can be cited to court if your cat does not have a rabies vaccination, just like with a dog.)
* Stray, friendly cats that find food or are provided food by people with good intentions, but no one claims them. If you are providing food for the animal, it is yours. You will receive citations for any cat you are feeding or that cohabitates on your property. You are not helping the pet population or the community by feeding cats. However, if you choose to bring the animal inside and provide medical attention, that is great. Only feeding them is not doing justice for the cat's well-being. You are only providing the means to reproduce, fight, and spread disease.
* Feral cats. These are cats that have never lived in a home with people and have reverted to being "wild." These cats cannot be placed into homes safely. There are a few rescue groups that will spay/neuter and relocate to barns. However, most will be euthanized to provide space for an adoptable cat.
Free roaming cats also bite and scratch people out of fear and aggression. Sometimes a cat will just wiggle because a child tries to pick it up; it may hurt the child. It could just be out of play. We have cats in quarantine for biting and scratching all the time. If you are supervising your cat or your cat is kept indoors, mistaken identity and injuries caused by or to your cat cannot happen.
Of special note, I would also like to encourage everyone to microchip his or her cat. There is no holding time for cats in our county. However, every animal that enters the shelter is scanned. This could save your cat's life. Mistakes happen, and indoor cats escape, too. Consider getting your cat micro-chipped for only $10 at the Campbell County Animal Shelter (859-635-2819).
Together, we can reduce the euthanasia rates in our county. Keep your cats indoors; spay and neuter your cats; and call the Bellevue city offices as soon as a stray cat shows up—before they have a chance to reproduce or invite friends to stay. Let's prevent homeless kittens from being produced. If we work together, we may have a home for every adoptable animal at the shelter soon. Currently there are just more kittens being produced than there are homes willing to adopt them.
To learn more about the pet overpopulation problem, visit this link to watch a short video.