Find out what owners need to know about the new animal laws.

Local animal laws were amended during the Dec. 18 City Council meeting at Wellington's city hall.

The first change was the creation of The Bad Apple Rule. Other amendments set requirements for dog shelters, wild or exotic animals, disposition/adoptions of dogs, along with new laws having to do with cats.

The laws were changed after a committee consisting of council members and local law enforcement officials examined the City's animal codes that were written in 1983.

Here are some highlights of ordnance:

Cat regulations
The number of cats a household can own has been set at four. Previously there was no set number for felines, now it has been changed to match the number of dogs a household can harbor.

"Just this year alone, 2012 as of November, we have picked up 231 cats," said Wellington Police Chief, Tracy Heath at the meeting. "... Those are cats that go to the animal clinic, they're there for the alloted time, and then unfortunately they are euthanized." Of the cats picked up by the WPD, 87 percent were put down.

There have also been conditions set for the adoption of cats.

Any person shall be entitled to adopt a cat from the city pound if certain conditions and requirements are met. The cat must be in good health, it must not be vicious, fierce or dangerous. The cat shall be vaccinated for rabies if it is being adopted. The feline shall be spayed or neutered by a licensed veterinarian; unless the cat is being adopted to a home outside of the city.

The cat can only be adopted if it has been impounded for ore than five days and the owner has failed to claim the animal.

"We currently require dogs to be licensed," Heath told the council. "...We were initially making those recommendations [for cats]. In the proposal in front of you we are not asking for cats to be licensed..."

These regulations brought up some discussion. The part about cats being spayed or neutered originally included nothing about homes outside of Wellington. Eventually that part was added after some discussion.

"I speak in opposition to this because I object to requiring that cats be spayed or neutered in order to be adopted because farmers do not want spayed or neutered cats," said Council Member, Jan Korte. "They want to populate their farms." After hearing the amount of cat picked up and euthanized, Korte was still not swayed.

"This law's not going to cut that number down," she said. "They reproduce so fast."

"It's not going to hurt, we pushed long and hard for this," replied Council Member, John Brand. "I think we did feel it was necessary to put something in there to try and help control the cat population." That's how the addition of cats going to rural homes without being spayed or neutered was added.

The Bad Apple Rule
This "rule" is meant to punish any person found guilty of three or more violations in a span of three years of having a vicious dog, dog fighting, or dog tethering. The "Bad Apple" will not be allowed to harbor a dog or a cat for one year.

Dog shelters
These structures are now prone to inspections. The amendment states "All premises on which animals are kept shall be subject to inspection by any animal control officer, duly authorized law enforcement officer, or public health official."

If the inspector determines the pen is not being maintained properly, the owner will be notified and instructed to correct the problem. If the problem is not fixed in 24 hours, "any animal kept under any condition which could endanger the public or animal health or create a health nuisance may be impounded." The animal will be released after fees are paid and the cause for impoundment is corrected.

The amendments concerning dog pens, states the new regulations. "All dogs are to be confined to the owner's property and not allowed to run free." The law says requirements for dog pens can be adequately met by a fenced-in yard, or if the yard is not fenced, dog owners can keep the dog in the house or an appropriate "outside enclosure."

Outside enclosures must be "of sufficient height to prevent the dog from escaping from the enclosure. The top of the enclosure shall be covered with materials to provide the dog with shade and protection from the elements."

The pen must also provide a large enough space so the dog can get the proper amount of exercise, depending on the size of the canine.

It is also unlawful for a person to keep a dog in a place that is not clean, dry, sanitary, free from debris and offensive odors that "annoy any neighbor," and devoid of rodents and vermin. Owners must remove excrement from the pen at least once a week, or more often if necessary to prevent/control odors, insect breeding and rodent infestation.

Making sure the dog pen has proper drainage and is properly maintained are more laws dog owners must abide by.

"Our current ordinance we really don't have anything that gives any direction for not only police officers, but for our animal control as far as a definition of adequate shelter for animals, specifically dogs," Heath said.

The ordnance was approved unanimously, Council Member, Chase Weber was not present. For further information regarding this or other City ordinances, contact the City of Wellington.