Ottertail city chases stray dog solution

With a running joke that it is the mayor's unofficial "duty" to serve as dog catcher, it seems the dog problem in Ottertail city is without an easy solution.

With a running joke that it is the mayor's unofficial "duty" to serve as dog catcher, it seems the dog problem in Ottertail city is without an easy solution.

Although dogs are heralded as man's best friend, they are often one of Ottertail city's greatest foes.

"We probably get a complaint about once a week," said city coordinator Lee Sherman.

Whether the problem is a stray, an overexcited barker, or just a plain mean-looking canine, citizens are looking to city officials to ensure that they get a good night's sleep, their children are kept safe, and their garbage stays in cans.

Questions about who is responsible for the city's strays, where they should be kept, how long the holding period should be, and what should be done with unclaimed animals were raised by council members at the April 19 Ottertail city council meeting.


Present at the meeting to assist the council in their efforts to tackle this issue was Patrice Randt, who works at the Humane Society in Fergus Falls. After reviewing the city's proposed dog ordinance that was drafted by the planning committee, Randt said that it seemed very similar to the ordinances adopted by neighboring cities.

According to Randt, the city would be responsible for the costs associated with putting the stray dogs down. The eight-dollar-per-day cost of holding the dogs at the Humane Society was also a concern for council members.

While many pet owners would be willing to cover the costs involved with the pick up and holding process, the city would be forced to pay the expenses of all unclaimed animals.

Another problem the council discussed was the necessity of designating an official "dog catcher" to enforce the ordinance. Catching the dogs can be a challenge. The "catcher" would need to have a vehicle to transport the animals in, and would also need to have proper health insurance. Having someone employed by the city to fill this role would result in another substantial cost to the city.

One idea the council had previously discussed was mandating that all dogs within the city be licensed. Randt said that this can be a great help, because with each dog's information on file with the city, a simple search of the database could quickly match a runaway up with its owner.

What would be difficult is enforcing the requirement that all dogs are licensed. Without the adequate resources to go door to door and enforce the mandate, city council members realized that the requirement of licensing dogs would not be feasible at this time.

As ideas were thrown around the room, the idea of even having a dog ordinance at all was eventually brought into question. According to clerk Linda Bjelland, cities are often reminded that it is better not to have an ordinance than to adopt one and fail to enforce it.

Council members ultimately decided not to vote on the recently drafted animal ordinance until a future date. At the suggestion of city attorney Terry Karkela, the League of Minnesota Cities will first be sought for additional advice on the ordinance.

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