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«THE BIG BOOK OF WOOF TABLE OF CONTENTS ABOUT THIS HANDBOOK INTRODUCTION CHAPTERS I. DOG IMMUNIZATION AND LICENSING IMMUNIZATION LICENSING 1. ...»

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THE BIG BOOK OF WOOF

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS HANDBOOK

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTERS

I. DOG IMMUNIZATION AND LICENSING

IMMUNIZATION

LICENSING

1. Licensing Fees

Where Does It All Go?

2. Pet Dealer Permit

3. Breeding [or Special] License

4. Working Farm Dog License

Doggie Tourist License

II. ENFORCEMENT

SELF EXECUTING STATE LAW

1. Killing Dogs

2. Ticketing

3. Impoundment

4. Vicious Dog Hearing

ENABLING STATE LAW

1. Ordinances

III. THE "VICIOUS” DOG HEARING

1. Bad Dog or Bad Hearing

2. The Complaint and Proper Notice

3. What to Do with the Dog During the Hearing?

4. The Purpose of the Hearing

THE HEARING

1. Rules of Procedure

2. Managing Evidence and Testimony

3. Concluding the Hearing, Deliberations and the Written Decision

THE PROTECTIVE ORDER

1. Reasons Why Dogs Bite

2. Dog Talk

SERVING AND STRENGTHENING VERMONT LOCAL GOVERNMENTS

3. What Should the Protective Order "Order"

THE APPEAL

FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE PROTECTIVE ORDER

VOTER ENABLED ORDINANCE

IV. ANIMAL CRUELTY

V. "ASK SPOT"

SERVICE DOGS

ABANDONED AND STRAY DOGS

POTPOURRI

APPENDICES

A. VICIOUS DOG COMPLAINT FORM

B. RESPONSE TO VICIOUS DOG COMPLAINT

C. NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING FOR VICIOUS DOG HEARING

D. NOTICE TO OWNER OF VICIOUS DOG HEARING

E. VLCT MODEL RULES OF PROCEDURE FOR SELECTBOARD VICIOUS DOG

HEARINGS

F. VICIOUS DOG HEARING DECISION/PROTECTIVE ORDER

G. NOTICE OF STRAY DOG IMPOUNDMENT

H. VLCT MODEL DOGS [AND WOLF-HYBRIDS] ORDINANCE

I. MUNICIPAL DOG AND WOLF-HYBRID LICENSES AND FEES POSTER..................62 J. HELPFUL CONTACT INFORMATION

VLCT Big Book of Woof, May 2014 Page 2

ABOUT THIS HANDBOOK

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ (VLCT) Municipal Assistance Center (MAC) has prepared this handbook as part of its series of publications to assist both towns’ elected and appointed officers. It is not intended to be a substitute for the Vermont Statutes Annotated, but it should prove to be a valuable complement.

Few fields of law demand so much immediate attention, elicit reactionary responses, draw the concern and ire of the public, or are as confusing to enforce as Vermont’s dog laws. This handbook provides an in-depth analysis of the various laws governing “man’s best friend” and fills in the gaps between the regulatory scheme mandated by the State of Vermont and the broad, largely undefined enabling authority that is the unexplored regulatory landscape in which towns often find themselves.

This handbook is meant to serve as a resource and instruction manual for municipal officials (selectboards, town clerks, animal control officers, town health officers, constables, and the town attorney) involved in dog matters for that which is clear, and a realistic and practical guide to those difficulties that are less so. The appendices includes a model vicious dog complaint form, hearing notices, rules of procedure, a decision template, impoundment notice, a model dog control ordinance, VLCT’s Dog and Wolf-Hybrid Licenses and Fees poster, as well as helpful contact information.

We have made reasonable efforts to ensure that the information provided in this publication is accurate; however, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns makes no warranty, express or implied, or representation that such information is suitable for any particular purpose or may be relied upon for any specific act, undertaking or course of conduct. In light of the ever-changing status of both statutory and case law, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns recommends that its members consult with an attorney before undertaking a specific course of action based on the material contained herein.

Finally, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have suggestions for improvements or additional material that you feel should be included in this handbook.

–  –  –

The relationship that homo sapiens have with dogs is unlike that it has with any other animal. It is the longest committed relationship with another species and no other animal has done more for us than dogs. They protect us, hunt with us, assist and aid, love us, and have done so longer than any other animal. Even the earliest records of our relationship evidences our closeness. Cave paintings from the Chauvet Cave in the Ardèche region of France show a 164-foot long trail of footprints of what appears to be a wolf-hybrid alongside a ten-year old boy from some 26,000 years ago.1 The strength of that image alone – a boy and his dog – elicits universally fond memories.

But our history is more complex than that. As we all know, dogs can engender feelings of loyalty, love, family, and devotion as much as they can terror, fear, and anxiety, even in the same person. For those of us who own or have owned dogs, they are part of our family; they’re like our children to the point that we forget that as animals they sometimes act instinctually. And, like we forgive children, we’re personally forgiving of dogs’ transgressions when they’re ours as much as we are critical of the same behavior when they belong to someone else. It’s this dichotomy in our long and rich history between our personal and public perceptions of dogs that makes regulating their behavior that much more difficult.





Man’s Best Friend, The Economist (August 6, 2011), http://www.economist.com/node/21525353.

–  –  –

The following is a fictional conversation between a Vermonter and a VLCT MAC staff person:

Caller: Good morning. I’d like to talk to someone about bringing a civil rights claim against a town.

MAC: And your name, sir?

Caller: Spot.

MAC: And is that your first name or your last name?

Spot: It’s both. You know, like Madonna, or Prince...

MAC: Got it. And what seems to be the problem, Spot?

Spot: I just renewed my license today and discovered that, according to the CDC, there have been three to four times as many rabies cases attributed to cats than dogs, but that cats aren’t required to be licensed! Do you know how many reported canine rabies cases there have been in Vermont since 2002?! One! Do you know how many cats have contracted rabies over that same period of time?! Six! So why do I have to get a license and they don’t?!

MAC: I’m sorry... er, are you a dog?

Spot: (barks) MAC: I’ll take that as a “yes.” Well, Spot, unfortunately the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not apply to dogs or, for that matter, to wolf-hybrids.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has characterized you... well, as property – and imperfect property at that.

Spot: Let me get this straight. You’re telling me that in the hierarchy of things, I’m on par with a couch?

MAC: No. I’m saying that because of the public health and safety hazards you pose, you’re less than a couch.

Spot: That’s absurd! So that means I have to be licensed, wear a collar, and be tied up in the yard?! Do you know how humiliating it is to be led around on a leash while these cats just go wherever they please, their tails in the air, flaunting their freedom right in front of me? It’s not fair! I’m a good boy!

MAC: I’m sure you are, sir.

Spot: (tail wagging) Don’t condescend to me! (hangs up).

Though Spot has no case, he does have a point. Why do we license dogs and not cats? What is it about dogs that warrants our draconian dominion over them? What happened in the past that brought us to today’s disparate treatment between dogs and cats?

The answer can be found in the circumstances surrounding the proliferation of dog licensing and other dog control measures around the United States. The early 1940s saw approximately 40 cases of the rabies virus annually. Extensive vaccination campaigns launched in the 1940s and 1950s, coupled with licensing programs that ensured vaccinations were performed and kept up to date, led to the virtual elimination of canine borne rabies in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 0.3 percent of dogs tested for rabies were found to be positive. Contrast that with 1.1 percent of all cats tested.2 If you search Title 20, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Domestic Animal Surveillance, available at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/location/usa/surveillance/domestic_animals.html (last visited June 9, 2013).

VLCT Big Book of Woof, May 2014 Page 5 Chapter 193, of the Vermont Statutes Annotated (this is titled “Domestic Pet or Wolf-Hybrid Control” but it really addresses the licensing, immunization, and control of dogs almost exclusively) the word “rabies” appears 53 times. The establishment of licensing programs in Vermont and around the country in the 1940s and ’50s was instrumental in abating the proliferation of rabies by requiring all dogs of a certain age to be licensed and their owners to show proof of current vaccination as a prerequisite to doing so. Though Spot may not like it, our state licensing program of dogs, which is predicated upon the submission of a current vaccinations certificate, has virtually eradicated the existence of canine rabies in Vermont.

According to the Vermont Department of Health, one dog has tested positive for rabies in the state since 2002. Contrast this with the number of cats, six, that have tested positive over the same period of time.3 Though state law does require all domestic pets (“any domestic dogs, domestic cats and ferrets... and other domestic animals that the commissioner shall establish by rule.” 20 V.S.A. § 3541(4)) to be inoculated against rabies (20 V.S.A. § 3581a(a)), the primary pet licensing statute (20 V.S.A. § 3581), only applies to the licensing of dogs and wolf-hybrids, and does not mandate the licensing of cats, though towns may do so by ordinance. It is the licensing program that helps ensure proper immunization.

IMMUNIZATION

Before you can get a license for your dog, you must give the town clerk either the dog’s original rabies vaccination certificate or a certified copy of it on a form prescribed by the Secretary of Agriculture. This certificate must be issued by a duly licensed veterinarian stating that the dog received its current pre-exposure rabies vaccination with a vaccine approved by the Secretary of the Agency of Agriculture. 20 V.S.A. § 3581. The person licensing his or her dog must also certify that the dog described in the certificate is the one being licensed. Vermont law is clear on fulfilling this prerequisite to licensing. And yet despite the unambiguous nature of the law, I was able to get a license for my dog without showing any of these documents. How, you ask? Well, in addition to stating an owner must have its dog inoculated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian, the law continues on to read “in accordance with section 3581 of this title, if applicable, and with rules adopted by the secretary.” 20 V.S.A. § 3581a(a). The Commissioner of the Agency of Agriculture adopted a rule exempting certain dogs with medical conditions or advanced age from being vaccinated, as these conditions would prevent the development of an adequate immunity to rabies.4 Most vets are aware of this exemption and are happy to provide such a certificate if, in their professional opinion, one is warranted. In these instances, the clerk should issue a license upon receipt of a certificate from a licensed vet stating that the animal’s medical condition exempts that animal from vaccination. Whatever appropriate certificate or copy the clerk receives must be kept on file. The license should state somewhere on it that the dog is unvaccinated, exempt, etc., and documented in your records. If a licensed but unvaccinated dog subsequently bites someone, the dog has to be observed and/or quarantined for a mandatory period of ten days to rule out rabies. The Department of Health would work closely with the Town Health Officer in this situation.



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