Commissioners finalize more stringent county-wide animal laws

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This November, an ordinance further protecting animals county-wide will go into effect.

On Sept. 9, Hamilton County Commissioners unanimously approved an update to its animal ordinance, which will toughen guidelines for caring for domesticated animals.

Changes include new temperature guidelines for extreme-weather conditions and more clearly defines what is considered adequate food, water, shelter, ventilation and veterinary care.

New definitions and penalties have also been added for backyard breeders and puppy mills. The proposed changes also further define and strengthen the penalties for animal abuse and neglect.

“For me this was a pretty easy ‘yes,’” Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt said. “Our chambers were packed with more than 100 people (Sept. 9), nearly all of them in favor of the amendments. The overwhelming support of our citizens tells me these changes were long overdue.”

The ordinance states that if the outdoor temperature is at or below 40 degrees, animals must have accommodations to retain body heat or must be moved to a climate-controlled area. The same rules apply in warmer months when the outdoor temperature is at or above 80 degrees, but in addition, animals must have access to shade, by way of trees, a tarp or other means, during daylight hours. In extreme weather conditions, including heat advisory, wind chill warning or tornado warnings, animals are required to be routinely monitored or moved to a climate-controlled area.

The ordinance also outlines general veterinary care requirements, particularly concerning vaccinations. Domesticated animals like ferrets, cats and dogs must be vaccinated every 12 months from their prior vaccination.

The ordinance outlines regulation, stating that all cases will be investigated by local law enforcement using Tufts Animal Care and Condition Scales. Violation of the new protection guidelines could result in fines of up to $500 per animal per violation.

“We believe this is a precedent-setting ordinance,” Rebecca Stevens, president and CEO of the Humane Society for Hamilton County said. “We’ve done our due diligence to develop an ordinance we feel could serve as a best practice for other communities. In fact, we’d like to see this same ordinance adopted by all the cities and towns in Hamilton County.”

The changes to the ordinance are effective Nov.15.

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