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A breeding license also distinguishes itself because it is the only license whose fee is in place of – not in addition to – the base license. Instead of having to pay the cost of licensing each dog individually, a breeding license covers them all. The cost of a breeding license is $30.00 for the first ten dogs and $3.00 for each additional dog. The state’s rabies control program fee of $1.00, however, will still apply, but only to each license sold – not to each dog. 20 V.S.A. § 3581(f).
For example, if a breeding license is sought by an owner breeding eight dogs, the cost of the license would be $31.00 – $30.00 for the breeding license and $1.00 for the mandatory state rabies control program fee. The license, however, is particular to the breeder, not to each and every dog. So, if you buy a puppy from a breeder, you will still have to license that dog (once it is six months old) with your town clerk even if you live in the same town as the breeder, because the benefit of group licensure is removed once the transfer of ownership occurs. Contrast that with buying a dog from a non-breeder or even just having someone you know give you a dog for whatever reason. In each of those instances, you will have to license the dog if it is not already licensed. But if it is, all you need to do is to change the name on the existing license. If you live in a different town from the person who gave the dog to you, will need to have that license transferred to your own town. That’s because a license from one town clerk will be valid in any other town in Vermont and may be transferred with the dog, provided the license is recorded by the clerk where the dog is being kept. 20 V.S.A. § 3591.
4. Working Farm Dog License The last of the licenses available for purchase from towns is the working farm dog license. A “working farm dog” is defined as a dog that is “bred or trained to herd or protect livestock or poultry or to protect crops and is used for those purposes and that is registered as a working farm dog pursuant to subsection 3581(a) of this title.” 20 V.S.A. § 3541(9). Anyone who owns such a dog and intends to use it on a farm must register it with the town and pay $5.00 for a working farm dog license in addition to all other licensing fees required. The benefit to farmers of this license is that a working farm dog, when registered properly, is exempt from town regulation of barking or running at large when it is on the property of the farmer who registered it, and the dog is being used to herd or protect livestock, poultry, or crops. Without that working farm dog license, a town is free to ticket the owner for the offending dog’s behavior, regardless of whether its owner operates a farm. The town clerk must keep a record of all licenses issued, including the name of the dog’s owner or keeper, and the name, registered number, and description of the dog.
20 V.S.A. § 3589.
VLCT Big Book of Woof, May 2014 Page 10 Doggie Tourist License It’s a dog’s life, which is why some of them like to vacation in Vermont. And who could blame them? We have rolling open spaces and of course plenty of trees. Before they visit our fair state, our four-legged tourists must remember to bring their tags bearing the identity of their owners and proof of current rabies vaccination covering the period they’ll be here. If they’re properly tagged, then there is no need to get them a Vermont license, so long as their stay doesn’t exceed 90 days. 20 V.S.A. § 3587.
Spot gets a letter in the mail.
Spot’s Owner: What’s wrong, boy? You look nervous.
Spot: Did you see this letter?!
Owner: The one from the town clerk?
Spot: Yes, that one! It says that if you don’t get me a license, I may be “humanely destroyed.” Do you know what that means?! (Spot makes a slashing motion across his neck.) Owner: Oh, they send that every year.
Spot: And you’re okay with this?!
Owner: Relax. They never follow through on it. Oh, but just make sure you stay on the property.
Spot: Why? What happens if I leave?
Owner: You could get impounded, and if I don’t pay the fine within a certain time, well... it’s just better if you stay on the property.
Spot: You mean they’d put me in the slammer?! I can’t do hard time! How much is the license?
Owner: What’s today, June 1st? You’re neutered so it’d be ten dollars.
Spot: Great, here’s a twenty. (Hands him a bill.) Get a license and some Snausages. And don’t forget the change!
Regulating and enforcing dog behavior begins, as do all other activities regulated by towns, with the fact that Vermont is a Dillon’s Rule state. As such, a town has only those powers and functions specifically authorized by the Vermont General Assembly and such additional functions as may be incident, subordinate, or necessary to the exercise of that authority. Petition of Ball Mountain Dam Hydroelectric Project, 154 Vt. 189 (1990). In short, your authority to regulate dogs emanates from the state. This authority can be either self-executing or enabling. A self-executing statute gives immediate authority to act, sometimes in the form of a mandate or directive, without any implementing action; an enabling statute gives the authority to act contingent upon implementing action at the local level, such as the adoption of an ordinance.
Even a town governance charter that allows the town to deviate from state laws of general applicability is itself approved by the state. These statutes are replete with “shalls” (things you must do) and “mays” (things you can do if you want). The authority to act with respect to dogs 5 almost exclusively resides in Title 20, Chapter 193, “Domestic Pets or Wolf-Hybrid Control,” with the exception of 24 V.S.A. § 2291(10), which provides no more enabling regulatory authority over dogs than Title 20, Chapter 193, does. We’ll address the self-executing State laws first to aid in your analysis of whether development of your own dog control ordinance is necessary.
SELF EXECUTING STATE LAWVermont law doesn’t require you to adopt an ordinance before you regulate dogs and their owners, but it does address most of the more serious issues that you’ll come across: licensing and immunization, dogs running at large, and vicious dogs. The law even provides you with a statute to issue a municipal complaint (ticket) for most of these violations (as well as a host of factors to This is in addition to Vermont’s animal cruelty laws: Title 13, Crimes and Criminal Procedure, Chapter 8, Humane and Proper Treatment of Animals.
VLCT Big Book of Woof, May 2014 Page 12 consider) and a prescribed process for handling their resolution. The problem with these statutes is that they tend to be more involved, complicated, and less attuned to resolving the specific issues with which you may be confronted. They also don’t address most nuisance issues (excessive barking, not picking up after your dog) that general enabling law permits you to regulate.
1. Killing Dogs The expression “it’s a dog’s life,” which dates from the 1600s, was meant to signify a life of misery. If dogs in the 1600s had it anything like Vermont dogs at the turn of the 20th Century, then that saying really rang true. One of the laws on the books back then required – as it does today – that the owner or keeper of a dog must cause it to be licensed and collared and that the name of its owner be indicated. The law, however, validated Spot’s apprehension because it also stated that “any person may, and every, police officer and constable shall, kill or cause to be killed” dogs without a license or collar “whenever or wherever found.” P. S. 5635. The motive for killing these dogs was immaterial. If they were off the owner’s property and didn’t have a collar or license, they were free game. Fortunately for Spot, the law has evolved since then.
Even if you haven’t adopted an ordinance, state law authorizes the killing of dogs in discrete circumstances. No notice is needed, no hearing is necessary. These are laws that allow you – as the government or private citizen – to summarily kill dogs because of the threat they pose to individuals or the public. As you will notice throughout this handbook the law prescribes different notice or in certain circumstances no notice. Though the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution states that no person can be deprived of property without due process of law the United States Supreme Court has ruled that in determining what process is due consideration must be given to the nature of the property.6 “So far as property is inoffensive or harmless, it can only be condemned or destroyed by legal proceedings, with due notice to the owner; but so far as it is dangerous to the safety or health of the community, due process of law may authorize its summary destruction.”7 “Killing dogs” is a morbid title for a subchapter on Vermont dog law, but Title 20 Chapter 193 uses the word “kill” in various tenses 19 times, thereby warranting a closer examination of who can do it, when it can be done, and what if any process must precede this act. The more sensitive sounding, but no less temporal phrases, “humanely destroy” and “dispose of in a humane way” are also used. The titles of the subchapters alone where these words appear reveal some of those offenses for which this ultimate of penalties may be imposed, including the killing or “worrying” of sheep and the attacking of a person or a domestic animal. These titles also indicate that some sort of bounty or fee may be claimed or assessed for the killing to be done. Only roughly half of these statutes actually involve towns in some form. The rest are laws of general applicability, “ (W)e noted that ‘due process concerns arise whenever the state deprives an individual of an interest in the use of real or personal property.’ The process that must be afforded, however, varies depending upon the context…we have applied the factors set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 335, 96 S.Ct. 893, 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (10\976). These are: (1) the private interest affected by the state action; (2) the risk of erroneous deprivation of the affected private interest affected by the state action; (2) the risk of erroneous deprivation of the affected private interest under the procedures used; and (3) the governmental interest involved, including fiscal and administrative burdens.” Lamare v. North County Animal League, 170 Vt. 115 at 121, 122 (1999).
Sentell v. New Orleans & C. R. Co., 166 U.S. 698 at 705 (1897).
VLCT Big Book of Woof, May 2014 Page 13 meaning that they are not peculiar to towns or their officers, but govern the behavior of society as a whole. Those laws specific to towns enable them to order a dog be put down as a result of a vicious dog hearing [20 V.S.A. § 3546(c)]; offer a bounty to kill a dog caught in the act of killing or worrying sheep [20 V.S.A. § 3749]; or play the role of a 15th century British monarch by chopping off its head and sending it to the Vermont Department of Health if it is rabid [20 V.S.A. § 3806]. Each of these statutes and the role towns play in executing them (no pun intended) are described below.