|A Haven For Dog Owners
Minnetonka, Minnesota is a suburban town on the outskirts of Minneapolis.
Its residents also say it is one of the best places to live if you are
an animal owner. Fanciers and dog owners often view animal control and
local governments with distrust, as it seems they are often trying to
restrict animal owners in various ways. However, these relationships
do not have to be antagonistic, but rather they can serve to improve
the quality of life for dog owners and the community as a whole. The
policies in Minnetonka and the citizens who have worked to make Minnetonka
such a great place to live can serve as a model for others to build
dog friendly communities.
John and Susan Peterson have lived in Minnetonka, Minnesota for over
20 years. In the past they have bred Chows Chows, and Susan Peterson
has also served as an AKC judge. Throughout the years they have had
as many as 10 dogs in their home. In many areas that number of dogs,
especially of a breed that is often persecuted, could cause a problem,
but the Petersons found the officials in Minnetonka to be helpful and
appreciative of their behavior as responsible dog owners.
In fact, Minnetonka has found dog owners to be such good citizens that
they no longer have license fees or requirements. The city only requires
that owners vaccinate their pets and have an identification tag or microchip.
When a survey of veterinary clinics found that only 2,000 of the 15,000
dogs in Minnetonka were licensed, officials quickly realized that only
responsible owners were licensing their pets, and they felt it was wrong
to penalize those who were the most law-abiding by charging them a fee.
The city now provides new residents with a “Doggie Dos and Don’ts”
brochure to make sure they are aware of all local regulations
According to Minnetonka Chief of Police, Joy Rikala, replacing licensing
with the identification requirements has accomplished three important
things: it has made compliance easier for residents, reduced the bureaucratic
paperwork for the city and for animal owners, and it provides a means
to identify stray animals and ensure animals are being vaccinated.
“We created a public education campaign to promote responsible
dog ownership. We used the web and local newspapers, and also handed
out information at our local Summer and Fall Festivals. Our humane officers
work with community and civic groups and attend events to raise public
awareness,” said Rikala.
An added benefit to all Minnetonka residents is the good dangerous
dog ordinance that was enacted to punish irresponsible owners and protect
the public. The city also has reasonable nuisance laws which require
owners to clean up after their animals, keep dogs on leash when off
the owner’s property, and have specific definitions for excessive
barking in the town’s noise ordinance. Having well-written and
consistently enforced laws benefits everyone in the community.
Suggestions to Improve Your Community
- Get to know your local officials. In addition to building relationships
with them, get to know your animal control officers.
- Invite local officials and animal control officers to observe a dog
show and educate them about your club’s activities.
- Invite representatives from animal control to come to a club meeting
to discuss issues of concern in the community. It’s always a great
idea to have relationships in place so that when negative legislation
is introduced, you can ensure that responsible dog owners are protected
from knee-jerk proposals.