A dog can be a bundle of joy. If you have ever owned a pooch, you know what I mean. Buddy or Bella loves you unconditionally, is always thrilled to hear your voice and enjoys your company, and is even content to be at the foot of your bed or in the backseat of your car.
But dog ownership comes with rules of the road, some that cost money to follow and more money if you fail to do so, others under the heading of being a “good dog” owner.
Here’s how to be a law-abiding, good dog owner. (Most laws pertain to dogs only, but if you own a cat ask your veterinarian about any requirements.)
Laws You Need to Know
Depending on where you live, you could face a fine if you fail to clean up after your dog, let your dog bark incessantly in the backyard or own a dog considered vicious, dangerous or nuisance.
State and local laws vary greatly. Check with your city or county government, or ask your veterinarian or humane agency. Also, if you live in a homeowner’s association or retirement community, find out what rules pertain to pet ownership.
Most states require a dog to be licensed. In Ohio, for example, every dog over three months of age must be registered annually by January 31 with the county auditor. If the dog is not registered by then, the licensing fee doubles. And an unlicensed dog that gets loose can cost up to $250 plus court costs.
Depending on local ordinances, a dog owner may have to pay a higher fee if the dog is not spayed or neutered. And the dog must wear the tag issued by the county auditor. If the dog warden sees a dog without a collar or tag on—even in your yard—the warden can seize the dog.
Most states require rabies vaccinations for dogs, and cats, but the required frequency can vary. The American Veterinary Medical Foundation has compiled a list of state rabies laws.
Other legal questions to consider regarding your community include:
- Is there a leash law?
- Can I own as many dogs as I want?
- If my dog hurts a person or damages someone’s property, am I liable?
- Can I be fined if I do not clean up my dog’s waste on another’s property?
(In some Denver communities, dog owners are being fined $100 for failing to do so – and they are using DNA testing to find the culprit. New York City has a “pooper scooper law” and also requires property owners to clean up animal waste on their property even if they do not own the animal. )
How to be a “Good Dog” Owner
“Owning a dog is not just a privilege – it’s a responsibility,” states the American Kennel Club, which has come up with 101 suggestions on how to be a responsible dog owner.
Here are six of them:
- Set Containment Policy
It is essential that you have a secure method of keeping your dog on your property. Check your fence for spots vulnerable to chewing or digging. If your yard is not fenced, consider a large dog run or invisible fencing. If your property is not fenced in some way, stress to family members that the dog must be leashed at all times when taken outdoors.
- Find a Veterinarian
You should choose a veterinarian for your dog as soon as possible. Have your dog examined by the vet within a few days of his arrival. Give your vet copies of the dog's health records, and set up a vaccination and check-up schedule.
- Set a Good Example
As a dog owner, you are responsible not only for your own dog's well being, but for the status of dogs everywhere. One irresponsible dog owner in town can make life difficult for dog owners all over. Owning a friendly, clean, well-mannered dog reflects positively on the species and may help protect our rights to own companion animals.
Dogs need regular exercise to ensure continuing good health. Take your dog for walks, run around in the yard, throw a ball around - anything to get him up and moving. This will benefit his health and could prevent behavior problems.
- Prevent Nuisance Barking
Don't let your dog's incessant barking annoy your neighbors. Teach your dog not to bark without real provocation. If your dog's barking is causing problems while you're away from home, try a silencing collar.
- I.D. Your Dog Your dog should wear an identification tag with your name, address and phone number at all times. This will increase the chances of your dog being returned to you if he is lost or runs away.
Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years.