New Omaha Ordinances October 2008

Omaha has just passed new laws which are toughening up some of the rules for pet ownership. There are three basic ordinances that will apply to every dog owner in Omaha and in the 3 mile perimeter just outside the city limits. One deals with tying dogs outside. The second has harsher penalties for owners who don’t follow the rules (and that includes keeping your dog’s license up to date). The third deals with dogs who have unsafe or threatening behavior. There are also some new rules that apply specifically to pitbull and other bully breed owners.

1.Tying dogs outside (Anti-tethering)
Dogs can no longer be tied up alone outside for more than 15 minutes. However if there is an adult (19 years or older) outside with the dog, he can be tied up as long as the adult is with him.  The dog also needs to be on a long enough tie-out that he can move freely (5 times his body length) and weighs just 1/8 of his bodyweight (no big tow chains). If your dog is tethered it needs to be tethered in a manner to keep it 15 ft. from a public sidewalk. Even if your dog is in a fenced yard or outside kennel the tethering ordinance still applies. If you have a securely fenced yard or fenced run for your dog and it is not tethered, it is ok to leave him outdoors without human supervision for extended periods of time. Enforcement of this ordinance begins October 15, 2008.

2. Reckless Owner
Everyone must follow the same rules.  Dog owners need to keep their pets from barking, clean up after them, contain them to the yard, walk them on appropriate leashes, license them on time and make sure they don’t have too many pets.  If owners violate any of the laws set out in Chapter 6 of the City Code on three separate occasions within 2 years (a 24 month time period) they can be declared a Reckless Owner and lose all their pets. If this happens the owner can’t own pets for FOUR years.  This is a tough law to get repeat offenders to change their behavior instead of just paying their fines and continuing to break the law.  Before you get too upset realize there are some easy ways to avoid getting citations.

  • License your pets on time by March 15 of each year. 
  • Take your pets inside when they are barking
  • Don’t tether your dogs out longer than 15 minutes without supervision 
  • Pick up after your dog when you walk him
  • Don’t let your dog run loose
  • Don’t leave pets in hot cars
  • Don’t take in too many pets
  • Don’t abuse or neglect your pets

You will be notified by the city after each conviction so you know your status.  The third conviction will result in Animal Control impounding all of your pets. Pet owners can appeal the designation to a hearing officer within 10 days of being declared a reckless owner   The city has set a $100 filing fee to appeal.  Enforcement of this ordinance begins October 15, 2008.

3. Dogs with Unsafe Behavior  ( Potentially Dangerous Designation)

There are dogs in our community who are ticking time bombs.  While they might not have bitten anyone, they exhibit aggressive behavior, and may have had instances where they chase neighbors, go after neighbor’s dogs, or menace people along a fence line.  These dogs may be a safety risk to the public if the owners don’t make some changes.  If Animal Control Officers determine the dog to be Potentially Dangerous that designation lets the owners know they have a growing problem and requires them to take some steps to protect the public.  

How is a dog declared potentially dangerous?

  • If an unprovoked dog inflicts minor injuries on a person or another pet.
  • If an unprovoked dog chases or approaches people in a public area in a menacing fashion. 
  • If a specific dog, when unprovoked, has a known propensity to, attack, or threaten the safety of people or other pets.  
  • This does not include a dog protecting its owner or other person from assault. This would not apply if the person attacked was trespassing on the dog owner’s property or if the person was committing a crime.  This exempts police dogs.

When animal control gets a complaint, officers will arrive to investigate whether or not the dog’s behavior fits into the definition.  They will talk to witnesses, victims, the dog’s owner and also observe the dog itself to make a determination.   *Please realize that every dog bite will not result in a potentially dangerous designation. Each circumstance will be evaluated individually. 

If the dog is declared potentially dangerous the owner will have to comply with the following:

  • Never allow the dog to be off their property unless on a 6 ft leash with a person over 19 years of age.
  • Muzzle the dog whenever outside the home or securely fenced yard
  • Attend a responsible pet owner class given by NHS  within 90 days of the declaration
  • Attend (with the dog) a dog behavior class approved by NHS within 90 days of the declaration.
  • Spay or neuter the dog within 30 days 
  • Micro-chip the dog within 30 days of the declaration
  • Carry $100,000 liability insurance
  • Obtain a new potentially dangerous dog license at a cost to the city of $100—the license tag must be on the dog at all times.

Owners can appeal the declaration within 10 days to a hearing officer for filing fee of $100 payable to the city.

Animal Control Investigators will be following these cases.  If the owner of a potentially dangerous dog does not do all that is required within the time allowed, he or she will automatically  be deemed a Reckless owner and lose all pets.

*If , after two years of being declared potentially dangerous, there have been no further issues with the dog,  the owner can petition Animal Control to have the designation and the requirements lifted for a city filing fee of $200.
Enforcement of this ordinance begins October 15, 2008

Some new fees you need to know about:
License fees will go up in 2009. 
      Spayed or Neutered dogs will go from $15 to $20 to license
      Intact dogs will jump to $50
      Intact Cats will jump to $50
      Spayed or Neutered cats will remain at $12

This is important information.  Please read!  Licensing season is from January 1 through March 15 2009.  If you voluntarily license after the deadline, the city’s late fees still apply.  If you don’t license your pet and you have a violation you will not only have to pay the late penalties you will be charged another city fee of $200 for refusing to license.  This will be very expensive.  Avoid all late penalties and license on time!

The fees to redeem your dog will also go up beginning October 15, 2008. 
If your spayed or neutered dog ends up impounded the city will now charge you: 
$35 the first time
$70 the second time within a 2 year period
$140 the third time within a 2 year period

If your dog is NOT spayed or neutered you will pay much more—but you have a chance to get most of it back.  The fees to redeem unaltered dogs are:
$300 first time within a 2 year period
$600 second time within a 2 year period
$1200 the third time within a 2 year period
BUT if you spay or neuter, and microchip your dog within 90 days, and provide proof to Animal Control within 90 days, you will be reimbursed:
$265 after a first redemption
$530 after a second redemption
$1060 after a third redemption

4. Pitbull Restrictions (and other bully breeds)

If you own a pitbull or other bully breed or mix as defined below you will be required to properly leash and muzzle your dog whenever he is outside, unless he is in a securely fenced yard.  If you don’t have a fenced yard your dog will be required to be leashed, muzzled, and in control of a person 19 years of age or older any time he is outside your house.

In order to license your pitbull you must be 19 years old and show proof of $100,000 liability coverage.  If you don’t follow these regulations you will be guilty of a first strike toward a reckless owner designation.

This portion of the ordinance went into effect October 15, 2008.

I don’t think my dog fits the definition
If you are approached by an Animal Control officer about the muzzling requirement and do not believe that your dog has a majority of the traits of a Pitbull, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentina, Presa Canario, American Bulldog or Cane Corso, or a mix of these breeds as defined by American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club standards, you will be given information to make an appointment to have the dog evaluated by a breed team.  If your dog does not display predominant characteristics you will be given a letter exempting your dog and a notation will be made in the licensing record.

What’s a Proper Muzzle?
A proper muzzle would be a basket muzzle (approved by NHS) that covers the dogs mouth and snout and prevents biting, but allows the dog to open its mouth, pant and drink.  Cloth medical muzzles or cinch down muzzles are improper muzzles to use because they don’t allow the dog to pant and breathe freely.  Those types of muzzles can hurt your dog by causing him to overheat.

NHS has ordered several sizes of approved muzzles which are available in our retail shop. We have also found a Web site that offers appropriate muzzles:

For tips on getting your dog to accept a muzzle, and to see a picture of an appropriate muzzle click here.

The muzzling requirement will go into effect January 1, 2009

Breed Ambassador Program
Pitbulls and included bully breeds and mixes who are exceptionally gentle and under the control of their owners can get a muzzle exemption if they apply for and receive Breed Ambassador Status.

Breed Ambassadors must:

  • File to take a Canine Good Citizenship Test given at the Nebraska Humane Society  (this includes a $25 filing fee and a $50 test fee) and pass the test. For a link to test criteria click here.   * We strongly urge anyone interested in this to  prepare for the test by taking a CGC class either at NHS or one of the obedience programs in town. Currently we know that Companion Dog Club, Bon-a-fide Academy, and Go Dogs all offer CGC classes.  We understand this will be an additional expense to owners but it will be worth it as very few dogs pass the CGC test on their first try.
  • The owner must also take a responsible pet ownership course given at NHS  
  • Provide proof of sterilization
  • Provide proof the dog has been microchipped—and provide the number
  • Provide proof of $100,000 liability insurance
  • Provide proof the dog has been licensed and vaccinated
  • Have had no violation of any animal ordinance by this dog

Once the dog receives the Breed Ambassador Designation he must:

  • At all times in public wear both a harness and collar with a connector joined in such a way as to provide a redundant restraint system should one fail.  This connector will be attached to the leash.  The connector shall be of a material sufficient to restrain the dog.  The leash cannot exceed 6 feet. 
  • The dog must wear a vest purchased from NHS that has the words “Breed Ambassador” and an identifying number when outside the home and securely fenced yard.  
  • The dog must be re-tested by NHS every year
  • If at any time a “Breed Ambassador” is in violation of any pet ordinance the designation shall be revoked and the dog will be required to wear a muzzle.

How do I sign up for classes, the CGC test, and work toward a Breed Ambassador Designation? 
NHS is working to get these classes and testing times on our schedule and fast track as many people as possible before the January 1 muzzle requirement takes place. Click here for classes and schedules.

How do I get insurance?
The requirement for $100,000 liability insurance is not excessive.  Most homeowner insurance offers $100,000 to $300,000 worth of liability as a standard amount, while most renters insurance offers $100,000 as a standard amount.  If you have homeowners or renters insurance already—you likely are covered.  Check your policy to see what your liability coverage is.  If you are in doubt you can call your agent and simply ask how much liability coverage your policy carries.  Some insurance companies won’t cover certain breeds of dogs.  However, there are several that don’t exclude coverage if you own a large dog. 

Start off on the right foot and get your pet licensed today!  Through October 31, 2008 there will be no late fee assessed for people who still need to buy their 2008 license. Avoid a “first strike” toward a reckless owner declaration (and losing your pets) and license now!