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The City of Helena is proposing a rewrite of its animal control code, with a particular focus on nuisance and dangerous dogs, and revised licensing requirements for those who own multiple dogs.  A public hearing has been scheduled for July 13, 2020 (Scroll down for more information).

Helena residents and those who participate in events in the city are encouraged to view the ordinance in its entirety (see page 28 in the link) to see how it would impact you and your dogs.

Changes include the following highlights:

  • New/Revised Licensing Requirements: A new multiple dog license is required for anyone who keeps or harbors more than 2 dogs over 6 months of age for more than 14 consecutive days. This license includes an inspection by local animal control.  Licensees must maintain proper housing for the animals, regularly clean up waste so it does not become a nuisance or health hazard, and provide adequate food and water.  They must also not be in violation of any other portion of the animal control ordinance, or they will be at risk of losing their license for two years.

    Current law requires a kennel license and inspection for those with three or more dogs over the age of six months (Among others, including those keeping animals for sale, or keeping animals they do not own).  The new proposal would instead require the multiple dog license and inspection for anyone keeping more than two dogs over six months of age.  It also continues the current requirements for a commercial kennel license, for any “place” keeping three or more dogs over 6 months of age for the purpose of boarding, breeding, training, or sale.  Current law includes dog training centers, but excludes animal hospitals, groomers, and pet shops.

  • Responsible dog owner laws – The proposal enhances laws meant to promote responsible dog ownership in the city. This includes citations for barking when it is continuous noise of more than 30 minutes 3 times in 7 days, or over one hour within 12 hours.  Penalties are also increased for those who do not clean up after their dog or allow them to run at large.  When in public, a dog must be on a leash that is 10 feet or less in length.
  • Dangerous dog laws – Currently, the city does not have dangerous dog laws, and this proposal seeks to address these concerns. It establishes the following new definitions:

    Potentially dangerous dog – This is a dog that bites, chases or approaches in apparent means of attack when unprovoked.  If a dog is declared potentially dangerous, the owner may petition to have the designation removed after 2 years of no further incidents.

    Dangerous dog – This is a dog that inflicts an unprovoked severe injury (broken bone, muscle tear, severe laceration, more than one bite or puncture), kills a domesticated animal, or was previously declared “potentially dangerous” and again bites or approaches in means of attack.  Exemptions are provided for dogs being antagonized, etc.  Owners must comply with certain conditions, including an increase in liability insurance, if a dog is declared dangerous.  An owner may petition for the designation to be removed after 5 years.

    There is an appeals process for this designation, during which the owner has the burden of proof that the dog is not dangerous.

How to Comment:

The Helena City Commission is holding a public hearing on these proposed changes.  The details are as follows:

Monday, July 13, 2020
6:00-9:00 pm
The meeting will be held via Zoom.  Log-in details will be provided online when available.

Comments may also be submitted via email at: mayorandcommission@helenamt.gov.  According to the city, emails sent to this address will be distributed to the Mayor, City Commissioners, City Manager, Interim City Clerk, City Attorney, and some media contacts.

AKC Government Relations will continue to monitor this proposal and provide more information as it becomes available.  For questions, contact AKC GR at doglaw@akc.org.

 

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