Pet Legal

Irresponsible Neighbor Lets Dog Roam Free

posted November 15th, 2011 by
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by Lloyd Benedict

Dear Laywer Lloyd,

I just moved to a house in Collinsville (but still in Tulsa County). It is my understanding that Collinsville has no “leash law.” Many of our neighbors let their pets roam the neighborhood (we have no neighborhood association). Our next-door neighbor has a Dachshund that frequently roams around in their front yard, as well as several other yards. On several occasions, she (the Dachshund) has defecated in my yard.

She also likes to stand on my front porch and bark (for hours) at my dogs, who are inside looking out at her; this drives me (and my dogs) crazy!

I went over a few weeks ago and talked to the owner/neighbor about this. I explained that we had seen her dog defecating in our yard, and that she is constantly barking from our front porch. The neighbor’s response to this was, “Yeah, we like to let her out to run around for a while every day.” There was no apology and no resolution to the problem (I guess she doesn’t see it as a problem). I am also concerned that, because she also runs around in the street, the dog will be hit by a car or cause an accident by someone trying to avoid hitting her. I don’t want to cause problems or be “that neighbor” because we just moved in.   It isn’t the dog’s fault that the owner allows her to run around and have free reign over the neighborhood.   How do I address this with my neighbor without causing an altercation? Since we don’t live in the city limits, what does the law say about this type of situation?

Thanks for your help on this.

Anomalous and Miserable

Dear Anomalous :

As they say, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your neighbors.” In my past articles, I have always encouraged the neighbors to work their problems out, and to only resort to law enforcement as a last option. You may wish to take another poke at getting their assurance to keep their pet off your property. I suggest you do this in writing and politely inform them that this conduct must stop. Be sure to inform them that you have already discussed this matter with them, and you have not seen any corrective action.

Express your concerns for the pet’s safety, and for the entire neighborhood’s safety. Last, inform them that you have given ample and reasonable time to resolve this matter, and that if they continue to disrespect your legal rights, then you are left with no choice but to seek official assistance in the matter.

If the dog then continues to run loose, and you want to seek official assistance, the issue becomes whether your understanding about Collinsville not having a “leash law” is accurate.

Being the inquisitive attorney I am and wanting to satisfy my curiosity, I called The City of Collinsville and spoke with their Animal Control Officer, Bobby Rosser. Mr. Rosser was extremely helpful with his knowledge of Collinsville Ordinances as they pertain to animals. He readily informed me that Collinsville does in fact have very strong Ordinances that they routinely enforce.

Specifically, Collinsville has Ordinance 4-101 and 4-402. Ordinance 4-101 is actually their “leash law,” and requires all animals to be restrained by their owners in the Corporate City Limits of Collinsville. Ordinance 4-102 is their

“running at-large” law that prohibits owners allowing their animals to enter others’ property without permission.

Both of these Ordinances carry hefty fines and will be investigated if reported.

Mr. Rosser can be contacted at (918) 371-1000, if you need assistance in your matter, but again note that he has no jurisdiction outside of the Corporate City Limits of Collinsville.

Due to your neighbor’s dog disturbing your peace, you may also have grounds to file a complaint against the dog’s owner for nuisance. This can be done by filing a complaint with the Collinsville Police Department.

Your situation also begs the question, what if you live in or outside the Corporate City Limits of Collinsville? If you live outside city limits, you still have law enforcement options. Specifically, Oklahoma Statute Title 4 Section 43 states that:

…any county with a population of 200,000 or more may regulate or prohibit the running at large of dogs within said county, and cause such dogs as may be running at large to be impounded… Any person, firm or corporation who violates any rule or regulation… shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished as provided by the laws of this state in any court of competent jurisdiction, provided that in the case of continuing offenses, each day on which the offense occurs shall constitute a separate offense.

Tulsa County has a population of 502,000, so it clearly is controlled by this law. As such, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department has jurisdiction over dogs running at large in rural Tulsa County. The person to contact with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office would be Deputy Dave Long with the Animal Control Desk at (918) 596-5704.

Calling that number may require you to leave your name and phone number and a brief description of your matter.

I presume Deputy Long has a pretty busy schedule, as he may be the only person who handles these matters, so I would recommend a follow up call or two, if you do not hear back.

THE LAWS WE ALL NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SERVICE DOGS

posted September 15th, 2011 by
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By Lloyd Benedict

Service Animals have been around for many years and are becoming even more popular as our social environment has become more accessible to people with disabilities. Interestingly, there is no required license or registration process for service animals in the U.S. As such, any person could claim that an animal is a “service animal” and demand to bring it into locations where animals are normally prohibited, such as restaurants, medical facilities, pet-free housing and even airlines. However, one of the main goals of the recent changes within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Federal law that protects persons with disabilities, was to reduce misrepresentations committed by people who falsely claim that their pets are service animals.

   Another important goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act is to ensure that businesses and organizations, serving the public, allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks and zoos, etc.

   A Service Dog is defined under Sec. 36.104 of the ADA as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability.

   Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort (i.e., therapy dogs), or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.
   Service Dogs must be allowed to go any public place their handler goes. It is required under federal and state laws that they be allowed to do so. They do not have to wear any specific identifying gear, including vests. Many Service Dog users choose to dress their dogs in a vest or other identifying apparel in order to make access easier, as it avoids many questions and confrontations. This is a personal choice, and is not required by law. It is illegal to ask for any special identification from Service Dog owners. Some carry ID cards, and may present them voluntarily, but this also is not required, and should not be expected. A business owner may NOT ask for “proof” or certification of the dog’s training as a condition of entry into their business.
   If a Service Dog misbehaves and places someone in danger, a business owner has the right to ask the partner to get control of the animal, or please leave. This should be only an isolated incident, and cannot be used to determine future access based upon what “might” happen or has happened in the past. A person with a Service Dog cannot be refused entry based on the actions of another service animal. For example, a business owner cannot say, “Oh, that last Service Dog team that was in here left a mess, so I’m not letting any Service Dogs into my store anymore.” This is discrimination and can be punishable by law. Remember, too, that Service Dogs are just that – dogs, and they can have bad days just like people can. They are not robots and cannot be expected to act perfectly all the time.

   You should also be aware that the ADA has some exceptions and additional rules. According to the ADA, a public accommodation (which basically means a business our public entity holding themselves accessible to the public) may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if:

  • The animal is out of control and the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control it; or
  • The animal is not housebroken.
  • If a public accommodation properly excludes a service animal under this section, it shall give the individual with a disability the opportunity to obtain goods, services, and accommodations without having the service animal on the premises.
  • A service animal shall be under the control of its handler. A service animal shall have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless either the handler is unable because of a disability to use a harness, leash, or other tether, or the use of a harness, leash, or other tether would interfere with the service animal’s safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the service animal must be otherwise under the handler’s control (e.g., voice control, signals, or other effective means).
  • A public accommodation is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal.
  • A public accommodation shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability, but may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. A public accommodation may ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. A public accommodation shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Generally, a public accommodation may not make these inquiries about a service animal when it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person’s wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability).
  • Individuals with disabilities shall be permitted to be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of a place of public accommodation where members of the public, program participants, clients, customers, patrons, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go.
  • A public accommodation shall not ask or require an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay fees, or to comply with other requirements generally not applicable to people without pets. If a public accommodation normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.

 

   Interestingly, and what I will forever keep in my “OMG, I can’t believe this is true” file, is that the ADA specifically makes a narrow exception to allows miniature horses also as service animals. However, before you go out and swap Fido out for Lil’ Trigger, you should be aware that there are some considerable differences when your service animal is a miniature horse, such as:

  • A public accommodation shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.
  • Assessment factors: In determining whether reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures can be made to allow a miniature horse into a specific facility, a public accommodation shall consider:
  • The type, size, and weight of the miniature horse and whether the facility can accommodate these features;
  • Whether the handler has sufficient control of the miniature horse;
  • Whether the miniature horse is housebroken; (Thank goodness for this rule.)
  • Whether the miniature horse’s presence in a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation.

 

   Oklahoma also has laws concerning Service Dogs. However, if a state law ever conflicts with a federal law, then the federal law is the law that must be followed. For instance, Oklahoma requires any driver of a vehicle who knowingly approaches within 15 feet of a person who is in the roadway or at an intersection and who is wholly or partially blind and who is carrying a cane or walking stick white in color, or white tipped with red, or who is using a dog guide wearing a specialized harness, or who is wholly or partially deaf and is using a signal dog wearing an orange identifying collar, or who is physically handicapped and is using a service dog, shall immediately come to a full stop and take such precautions before proceeding as may be necessary to avoid accident or injury to the person wholly or partially blind, deaf or physically handicapped. For purposes of this section, a “dog guide” means any dog that is specially trained to guide a blind person. 

   Oklahoma law, in short, further defines and provides that:

  • Any {disabled person}who is a passenger on any public transportation operating within this state shall be entitled to have with him or her a guide, signal, or service dog specially trained or being trained for that purpose, without being required to pay an additional charge.
  • A {disabled person} shall not be denied admittance to any {public place} where the general public is regularly, normally, or customarily invited within the State of Oklahoma. Such {disabled persons}shall not be required to pay any additional charges for his or her guide, signal, or service dog, but shall be liable for any damage done to the premises by such dog.
  • A dog used by a deaf or hard-of-hearing person shall be required to wear an orange identifying collar.

 

   For the purposes of this Oklahoma Statute:

            1. “Physically handicapped person” means any person who has a physical impairment             which severely and permanently restricts mobility of two or more extremities, or who is         so severely disabled as to be unable to move without the aid of a wheelchair;

            2. “Service dog” means any dog individually trained to the physically handicapped             person’s requirements; and

            3. “Signal dog” means any dog trained to alert a deaf or hard-of-hearing person to             intruders or sounds.

   Oklahoma even has very strict laws that protect Service Animals. Note that as you read this law, it uses the term “Service Animals” not just “Service Dogs.” I was also unable to find any federal laws that address this same issue, therefore Oklahoma’s law is the controlling one.  According to Oklahoma Statutes:

  • No person shall willfully harm, including torture, torment, beat, mutilate, injure, disable, or otherwise mistreat or kill a service animal that is used for the benefit of any handicapped person in the state.
  • No person including, but not limited to, any municipality or political subdivision of the state, shall willfully interfere with the lawful performance of any service animal used for the benefit of any handicapped person in the state.
  • Any person convicted of violating any of the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000.00, or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding 1 year, or both.
  • Any person who knowingly and willfully and without lawful cause or justification violates the provisions of this section, during the commission of a misdemeanor or felony, shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000.00, or by imprisonment not exceeding 2 years, or both.
  • Any person who {injures or kills} or to interfere with a service animal in any place where the service animal resides or is performing, shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor. Additionally, the court shall order the violator to make restitution to the owner of the service animal for actual costs and expenses incurred as a direct result of any injury, disability or death caused to the service animal, including but not limited to costs of replacing and training any new service animal when a service animal is killed, disabled or unable to perform due to injury.
  • No {government entity}, or any official thereof, may enact or enforce any ordinance or rule that requires any registration or licensing fee for any service animal as defined in this section that is used for the purpose of guiding or assisting a disabled person who has a sensory, mental, or physical impairment. Any official violating the provisions of this paragraph shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $50.00.
  • A “service animal” means an animal that is trained for the purpose of guiding or assisting a disabled person who has a sensory, mental, or physical impairment.

 

   Lastly, Oklahoma’s Landlord and Tennant Act prohibit discrimination against tenants who have “Service Dogs.” The law states: (as you read, keep in mind that the Landlord would also be held to the same ADA rules as discussed above).

  • A landlord shall not deny or terminate a tenancy to a blind, deaf, or physically handicapped person because of the guide, signal, or service dog of such person.

 

   The following list will be helpful for those of you who may require enforcement of these laws against those who violate your rights as a Service Animal owner or if you are a business owner who needs further clarification:

Problems with Access to Public Places: contact Dept. of Justice at (800) 514-0301; TTY (800) 514-0383; www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm.

Problems with Housing: contact Dept. of Housing and Urban Development at (202) 708-1112; TTY (202) 708-1455; www.hud.gov.

Problems with Traveling: Dept. of Transportation at (202) 366-4000; www.dot.gov.

Problems at Work: contact Job Accommodation Network, a free service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the Department of Labor, at (800) 526-7234.

Legal Column

posted July 15th, 2011 by
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Dear Lawyer Lloyd,
Q. I have a neighbor that really dislikes me and my two dogs. I have done everything I can for the past few years to be cordial to this guy, but he has made comments like, “Boy, I would hate to be your dog if he ever got in my yard.” Recently, I was walking my dogs past his house and he said, “You know I work on my cars all the time and if some antifreeze leaks out and your dogs drink it, then that would just be tragic.” I have called the police but they said they cannot do anything since he hasn’t broken any laws. What can I do about his threats and what can I do legally if he poisons my dogs?
Thank you, Frustrated in Owasso

Dear Frustrated,
A. This is a three part question and a subject I am asked about often.
First, there is the threat. In reality, they amount to threats against you and your property. Therefore, the police can do something about the matter. In fact, you can demand an emergency protective order (EPO) for you and your pets’ safety. The police have the forms with them to issue EPOs.
The EPO is a temporary solution until the matter goes before a Judge. After you contact police and request an EPO be filed, you’ll be given the opportunity for a hearing in Court and so will the person the EPO is filed against. If the Judge agrees that you have a “real threat of imminent harm against you and your pets,” then he may issue a permanent protective order against your neighbor.
If your neighbor harms you or your pets while he has been ordered to leave you alone, then the punishment for such a crime will be considerably more substantial than without the protective order.
The second part of your question has a legal and pet health answer. I visited the ASPCA’s pet poison control website for some helpful tips.
The site advises not to panic.

Respond rapidly, but take a minute or so to safely collect and have in hand any materials you think are involved in harming your pet. This may be of great benefit to your vet and/or APCC toxicologists, as they determine what substance your dog may have ingested.
If the pet needs veterinary attention, be sure to take the substance’s container. Also, collect in a sealed plastic bag any material your pet may have vomited or chewed. If you witness your pet consuming material that you suspect might be toxic, do not hesitate to seek emergency assistance, even if you do not notice any adverse effects.
Sometimes, even if poisoned, an animal may appear normal for several hours or for days after the incident.
Call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at (888) 426-4435.

There is a $65 consultation fee. The website notes that if your pet is having seizures, losing consciousness, is unconscious, or is having difficulty breathing, telephone ahead and go immediately to your veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic. If necessary, he or she may call the APCC.
Finally, there are legal aspects to your question. Pets are considered a personal property in Oklahoma, so harm to a pet is damaging your property. If your neighbor poisoned your pet, and you can prove that he did it, then he/she would be liable to pay for the value of your pet in the event of death.
They would also be responsible for costs associated with the loss, including veterinary bills, burial or cremation expenses, and any other reasonable out of pocket expenses.
The neighbor may be liable for punitive damages as well since his conduct would be egregious.

You may also be entitled to claim damages for mental anguish if you have some type of physical manifestation resulting from the mental anguish. An example of this would be loss of sleep and appetite, stomach ache, headaches, etc., but those damages are sometimes hard for a physician to relate them to mental anguish.
I am sorry to hear your problem and hope your neighbor does not act upon his threats. Hopefully, it’s all talk, as it is most of the time.
Sincerely, Lawyer Lloyd

Dear Lawyer Lloyd:
Q. I am disabled and I have a service dog to assist me. Recently my Landlord said I could not keep a service dog in my rental home and is threatening to evict me if I do not “get rid of my mutt.” First of all, I am completely offended by his comments against my well-trained, certified service dog. Secondly, can he evict me over this?
Thanks, D.K. Tulsa

Dear D.K.
A. The quick answer is maybe. Yes, he can evict you if your lease prohibits guide, signal, or service dog animals.
In fact Oklahoma has a Law that addresses this exact issue.
Specifically, Oklahoma Statutes Title 41 of the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. § 113.1. titled “Denial or termination of tenancy because of guide, signal or service dog” states that “A landlord shall not deny or
terminate a tenancy to a blind, deaf, or physically handicapped person because of the guide, signal, or service dog of such person unless such dogs are specifically prohibited in the rental agreement entered into prior to November 1, 1985.” If your lease does not SPECIFICALLY prohibit such dogs, (even if it excludes ordinary dogs) then your landlord would be in violation of Oklahoma Law if he attempts to evict you for that specific reason.
Since evictions are handled through the small claims Court, then you will be allowed to appear at the eviction proceedings filed by the landlord, and state your case. Be sure to bring evidence that your dog is a service dog as well as evidence of your disability (if your disability is not obvious), as well as paperwork showing your physician has recommended that you maintain a service dog.

Good luck, Lawyer Lloyd

Protective Orders for People Expanded to Cover Pets

posted May 15th, 2011 by
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By Lloyd Benedict

Over the past few years, I have written about the various legal means to protect our furry and helpless little friends, hoping to educate readers about how to maintain and protect their pets within the bounds of the law. It is a privilege to own a pet, and not a right. There are many animal laws that must be followed and consequences when they are not.

Despite the consequences, Tulsa has historically, in my opinion, been weak on law enforcement against the violators of animal laws compared to other cities in similar size throughout the country.
This inadequacy is not just my observation. Our lawmakers have known for many years that laws protecting animals ultimately require a slow process within the Courts to bring about protecting our pets, especially when the pets’ safety may require immediate action.

An example is the typical “mean neighbor” situation. You know the drill. The neighbor torments your dog and you finally decide to peacefully confront him to request an end to the abuse. The neighbor threatens you and your pet. Now fearing for your safety as well as your pets, you decide to call the police, but they are slow to respond because nothing has actually happened other than a threat. Now what? Another common scenario is when you are in a rocky relationship and you fear your significant other will become abusive to not only you but to your pet. Threats are made and you are now in fear of eminent harm. Now what? November 1, 2010, Oklahoma lawmakers addressed this problem when they amended the law to allow Protection Orders for human victims to include the victim’s pets. Oklahoma Protective Order Statute, Title 22 § 60.2, states: (edited for readability with the amended portion in bold) A. A victim of domestic abuse, a victim of stalking, a victim of harassment…

….The person seeking relief shall prepare the (protection order) petition or, at the request of the plaintiff, the court clerk or the victim-witness coordinator, victim support person, and court case manager shall prepare or assist the plaintiff in preparing the petition.

…The person seeking a protective order may further request the exclusive care, possession, or control of any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by either the petitioner, defendant or minor child residing in the residence of the petitioner or defendant. The court may order the defendant to make no contact with the animal and forbid the defendant from taking, transferring, encumbering, concealing, molesting, attacking, striking, threatening, harming, or otherwise disposing of the animal.

It appears that Protective Orders would not be issued solely to protect pets. The person seeking the Protective Order may “further request” the Court to include protection for their animal, following their belief that they are in danger of harm. It is then up to the Judge to hear the victim’s testimony and determine whether a real threat exists.
This statute incorporates the use of the Emergency Temporary Protective Order law which allows the victim seeking protection for them and their pet to possibly obtain immediate protection until the matter is heard before a Judge.

I contacted the Tulsa County District Court to learn how popular the added pet protection order has been. One of the judges’ clerks that handles protective orders said pet protection is becoming more frequent. She said one of the Judges has placed the name of the pet or pets in his order, providing specific protection for those pets. Additionally, she said the Judge is proactively asking victims (if not in the original request) if there is threat of harm against their pet(s).
The Tulsa District Court is not just looking out for us, but for our furry family members, too.

Over the past few years, I have written about the various legal means to protect our furry and helpless little friends, hoping to educate readers about how to maintain and protect their pets within the bounds of the law. It is a privilege to own a pet, and not a right. There are many animal laws that must be followed and consequences when they are not.

Despite the consequences, Tulsa has historically, in my opinion, been weak on law enforcement against the violators of animal laws compared to other cities in similar size throughout the country.
This inadequacy is not just my observation. Our lawmakers have known for many years that laws protecting animals ultimately require a slow process within the Courts to bring about protecting our pets, especially when the pets’ safety may require immediate action.
An example is the typical “mean neighbor” situation. You know the drill. The neighbor torments your dog and you finally decide to peacefully confront him to request an end to the abuse. The neighbor threatens you and your pet. Now fearing for your safety as well as your pets, you decide to call the police, but they are slow to respond because nothing has actually happened other than a threat.

Now what? Another common scenario is when you are in a rocky relationship and you fear your significant other will become abusive to not only you but to your pet. Threats are made and you are now in fear of eminent harm. Now what? November 1, 2010, Oklahoma lawmakers addressed this problem when they amended the law to allow Protection Orders for human victims to include the victim’s pets. Oklahoma Protective Order Statute, Title 22 § 60.2, states: (edited for readability with the amended portion in bold) A. A victim of domestic abuse, a victim of stalking, a victim of harassment…

….The person seeking relief shall prepare the (protection order) petition or, at the request of the plaintiff, the court clerk or the victim-witness coordinator, victim support person, and court case manager shall prepare or assist the plaintiff in preparing the petition.

…The person seeking a protective order may further request the exclusive care, possession, or control of any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by either the petitioner, defendant or minor child residing in the residence of the petitioner or defendant. The court may order the defendant to make no contact with the animal
and forbid the defendant from taking, transferring, encumbering, concealing, molesting, attacking, striking, threatening, harming, or otherwise disposing of the animal.

It appears that Protective Orders would not be issued solely to protect pets. The person seeking the Protective Order may “further request” the Court to include protection for their animal, following their belief that they are in danger of harm. It is then up to the Judge to hear the victim’s testimony and determine whether a real threat exists.
This statute incorporates the use of the Emergency Temporary Protective Order law which allows the victim seeking protection for them and their pet to possibly obtain immediate protection until the matter is heard before a Judge.

I contacted the Tulsa County District Court to learn how popular the added pet protection order has been. One of the judges’ clerks that handles protective orders said pet protection is becoming more frequent. She said one of the Judges has placed the name of the pet or pets in his order, providing specific protection for those pets. Additionally, she said the Judge is proactively asking victims (if not in the original request) if there is threat of harm against their pet(s).
The Tulsa District Court is not just looking out for us, but for our furry family members, too.

Lloyd Benedict is a principal in the Benedict Law Office, Tulsa, and is a member of the Tulsa County Bar Association Animal Committee.

Dealing with Difficult Neighbors Over Pet Issues

posted October 15th, 2010 by
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BY LLOYD BENEDICT

Do you live next door to a mean, spiteful, pet hating person? Do you live next to a busy body who has called the police every time your dog howls at a siren? We have all heard the stories of the mean old guy who poisoned his neighbor’s dog or shot their cat with a BB gun because he thought they were a nuisance. In fact the stories are endless on how neighbors have declared war against each other over their pets.

Being on either side of this issue can be no laughing matter, and has been the subject of many neighbor disputes that have lead to legal intervention, or worse, retaliation against the pet itself. If you find yourself in this situation, you best arm yourself with legal information on how to remedy the matter.

The best way to resolve these issues is to work it out amongst yourselves and only use law enforcement or the Courts as a last resort. In many cases, simply talking to the neighbor and working out some type of compromise can usually solve the problem. If the problem still persists, then there is still a relatively inexpensive and quick way to resolve the problem before losing your cool. This can be accomplished through the Early Settlement Program offered through the City of Tulsa. According to the City’s website the City of Tulsa offers individuals, through the program, the opportunity to voluntarily resolve disputes before getting involved in costly, and often lengthy, legal proceedings. In short, through their Human Rights department, the Early Settlement program provides a confidential, but formal, out-of-court mediation service to help you settle your dispute. In over 80 percent of the cases handled by Early Settlement, both parties reach a lasting, mutually acceptable resolution.

When a case is initiated with Early Settlement, their office contacts the other party in order to advise them of the issue at hand. They are then informed that they are party to a dispute, and that the initiator is willing to work the problem out peacefully, through the City’s office, before taking more extreme measures. Early Settlement encourages all parties to work together rather than risk the added expense and trouble of going to court. You can get further details about this program by calling (918) 596-7786.

On the other hand, if the neighbor is unwilling to work it out peacefully and the problem still persists, then you may wish to file a complaint with the Police Department or Animal Control. Whether you find yourself having to resort to calling the Police, or you are the person who the Police may be calling upon, there are many animal laws in Tulsa that you should be aware of. Many of these laws may have nothing to do with the original dispute but may be added concerns once police become involved.

One example of these Tulsa laws would be that it is unlawful to own any dog or cat over four months old, unless such dog or cat has a current vaccination against rabies and is licensed. A license for one year, which requires a one-year rabies vaccination, is $5.00. Alternatively, Tulsa allows you to obtain a three-year license for $15.00 as long as your pet receives a three-year rabies vaccination. If you have your pet microchipped along with a three-year rabies vaccination, the total fee is only $5.00. A violation of this Ordinance could cost you a $75.00 fine per each unlicensed dog or cat and another $75.00 fine for each that is unvaccinated. For further information concerning how to obtain a license for your dog or cat, contact Tulsa Animal Welfare at 669-6299.

Another law most pet owners are familiar with, but many choose to ignore, is Tulsa’s mandatory Leash Law. The law states that dog owners cannot allow any dog to run at large. What many people do not realize is that this law applies to cats too. An exception to this law is that a dog is allowed to be unleashed when it is obediently at heel. In any event, violators of the leash law may find themselves receiving a $200.00 fine and the risk of having their pet impounded. Having your pet impounded will cost you more substantial fines and fees in order to redeem your pet, especially if he/she is not licensed, not vaccinated, and not spayed or neutered. Worse yet, a large number of impounded dogs and cats are only boarded for three days before they are euthanized if not claimed by the owners within that time.

Tulsa Police also regularly enforce the “Barking Dog Law” also known as the Animal Nuisance Ordinance. This law prohibits owning or possessing any animal which is a nuisance. A Nuisance is defined as any animal which habitually commits any one or a combination of the following acts:

a. Scratches or digs into any flower bed, garden, tilled soil, vines, shrubbery or small plants and in so doing injures the same;
b. Overturns any garbage can or other vessel for waste products or scatters the contents of same;
c. Chases any person or domestic animal, or kills any domestic animal;
d. Barks, howls, brays or makes any other loud or offensive noise common to its species or peculiar to itself, so as to disturb the inhabitants of the community;
e. Runs at large.

It is probably safe to say that “habitually” means more than once and rather frequent. Violators of this offense could face imprisonment in the City Jail for 30 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.

Tulsa law requires every pet owner to attach a current license tag, for the animal, to collars or harnesses worn by their dogs or cats, unless the dog or cat is permanently and uniquely identified with a microchip implant or tattoo. Violators of this offense can be fined $200.00.

Tulsa pet owners must keep every female dog or cat “in heat” confined in a building, veterinary hospital or boarding kennel in such a manner that another dog or cat cannot come into contact with it except for controlled breeding purposes. Violators of this law can also be fined $200.00.

You may wish to also take note it could cost a hefty $200.00 if you violate Tulsa’s Pooper Scooper law. No animal owner shall allow their animal to defecate (without the owner removing the excreta deposited) on public or private property other than that of the owner. The law is not specific to dogs and cats.

If you were wondering how many pets you may own in Tulsa, it is unlawful to own, keep or possess in any one household more than a combined total of five dogs and cats over the age of four months; provided that no more than three of such animals shall be dogs over the age of four months. Violating this law can land you 30 days in jail or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.

One of the most important laws pet owners need to be aware of is that Tulsa requires every dog and cat over the age of six months to be spayed or neutered, unless the owner has secured a hobbyist exemption permit. The fine for this is also $200.00, which typically exceeds the cost for spaying or neutering at your local vet.

As you can see, being aware of these offenses can save you substantial penalties or possibly give you the knowledge needed to report irresponsible and uncooperative neighbors. After all, these laws are not just to punish wrongdoers, they were also designed to protect our animals.

Pets vs. Cars

posted April 15th, 2010 by
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By Lloyd Benedict

One of the most traumatic events you may encounter as a driver is striking an animal with your automobile. At any one moment in Tulsa there are multitudes of animals running at large on our streets.

As we also know, at any one time there are even more vehicles traveling on those same streets. Predictably and quite frequently, the two will tragically cross paths resulting in injury or death to the pet as well as considerable damage to the vehicle. In fact, many of these encounters cause serious injuries and death to the drivers who lost control of their car while attempting to take evasive action. At minimum, these experiences are extremely upsetting to both the driver and the owner of the animal.

If you are unfortunate enough to hit a dog or cat with your car it is essential to get the animal help immediately! However, DO NOT CAUSE FURTHER RISK TO YOURSELF AND OTHER DRIVERS while attempting to render aid to the injured animal. The first thing you should do is immediately call Police and carefully follow their instructions on how to handle the matter.

Aside from the emergency and emotional aspects of these disturbing circumstances, there are also legal consequences to consider. Tulsa Ordinance Title 37 Section 802 (C) imposes a duty upon all drivers who strike an animal with their vehicle. The law states; the driver of any vehicle who kills or injures an animal in the street shall stop and attempt to locate the owner and, failing to find the owner, shall within 24 hours notify the Police Department of the accident. Violators of the offense may face a fine of $500.00. The Ordinance also requires the driver to “stop.” Failing to stop could amount to animal cruelty.

Intentionally hitting a domestic animal and then failing to stop is a felony conviction and can be punishable by imprisonment up to five years. Accidentally hitting a domestic animal and failing to stop is a misdemeanor carrying a $500.00 fine or up to one year in county jail or both. It should be mentioned that this law not only applies to dogs and cats but also to horses, cows, sheep and any other domesticated animals. However, I think it’s safe to say you shouldn’t worry about the occasional squirrel who wrongly thinks his quick maneuvering skills are far better than your breaking skills.

On the other hand, the law also frowns upon the careless owners of the animals injured or killed by vehicles. Such violators may face substantial penalties and fines for allowing their animals to run at large on the streets. Specifically, Tulsa Ordinance Title 7 Section 304 states that; It shall be unlawful for any person to turn any animal loose on any street or public place in the City of Tulsa. Every person violating this section shall be guilty of an offense and, upon conviction, shall be punished by imprisonment in the City Jail for a period of not exceeding 90 days or by a fine of not more than $750.00 plus costs, fees and assessments, or both such fine and imprisonment.

Aside from fines and penalties imposed from the City, careless pet owners who allow their animals to run at large may be exposed to civil lawsuits. This situation can arise when the animal/automobile collision results in damage to the vehicle or injuries to the driver and passengers. As I mentioned earlier, these types of accidents commonly cause serious injuries and even death to the drivers who lost control of their vehicle while swerving to miss an animal. If it is proven that the animal was the cause of such accident, then the pet owner may be found liable for the victim’s damages. As you can imagine, monetary damages owed by careless pet owners to a person killed under these circumstances could amount to millions of dollars.

Typically, if the pet owner is also a homeowner, then their homeowner’s liability insurance may cover up to the amount of their insurance limit. Fortunately, in most of these cases, damages owed by negligent pet owners for injuries to the driver or their vehicle are amounts well within their policy limits. Generally homeowner’s liability insurance limits are $100,000 to $300,000, which are adequate to cover the majority of these damages. Note however, many insurance companies exclude coverage for any injuries to persons or property caused by their animals. I would suggest you contact your homeowner’s insurance agent and ask if your policy covers damages caused by your animal. If your policy does not cover such losses, then you may consider changing insurance companies to one who sells policies that will cover animals. Think of it this way. Let’s say the doorbell rings and you open the door as you routinely do. Suddenly, untrained Fluffy, your family dog, shoots out the front door. Excited about his new-found freedom, Fluffy runs straight into the path of an oncoming car. In a matter of seconds, dogs like Fluffy have the ability to cause injury or death to innocent motorists as well as to himself, while financially destroying his owners.

Ask Laywer Lloyd

Dear Layer Lloyd,

I am going through a divorce and one of our many disagreements is who will get custody of our cat. I refuse to give up my cat.
Unfortunately, he wants the cat as bad as I do. I have been told that since Courts can award joint custody of children, they can do the same for pets. Is that correct? Thanks. R.M.- Jenks OK

Dear R.M.,
Custody disputes over the family pet are becoming popular. Some people are even prepared to spend thousands of dollars over this issue alone. However, you should be aware that the laws concerning child custody are completely different than the laws dealing with pet custody. Simply put, pets are personal property, so the Court handles disputes over animals the same way it deals with who gets the sofa. Fortunately, Oklahoma Divorce Courts require mediation when property and custody disputes cannot be resolved before trial. Typically most mediators can convince the parties to work out many difficult disputes.
In any event, if the parties cannot agree, then the Courts have the ability to make that decision for you. Please forward your questions to [email protected]

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