County Changes Animal Ownership Regulations

Advertisement
Two cougars were found on a resident’s roof in Washoe Valley in 2008. Image: Washoe County.
Two cougars were found on a resident’s roof in Washoe Valley in 2008. The cougars had to be tranquilized by the Nevada Department of Wildlife to get them safely contained. Image: Washoe County.

Exotic animals are filed under tiers, and the county is eliminating the Animal Control Board. Those are just two of the big changes under approval by the Washoe Board of County Commissioners.

Changes to animal ordinances have been in the works for years, and the county wants residents to know the new rules for pet ownership in the county’s congested areas.

For example, it’s not allowed to own more than three dogs or seven cats without a permit from the county, and some exotics get a pass while others will require a permit.

The New Permit Process

Sugar gliders are a-ok in Washoe County. No permits are needed to own one. Image: Alessandro Di Grazia, http://www.petsugargliders.eu. Republished under Creative Commons licensing.
Sugar gliders are a-ok in Washoe County. No permits are needed to own one. Image: Alessandro Di Grazia, http://www.petsugargliders.eu. Republished under Creative Commons licensing.

Shyanne Schull, director of Washoe County Regional Animal Services, said that the changes are in part for efficiency and part for public health and safety reasons.

“We changed kennel and cattery systems in the way permits are administered,” she said. “A lot of people are not aware of that. We’ll get a complaint, and we’ll respond and the (animal owner) isn’t aware there’s a limit (on pet ownership) in the congested areas of Washoe County.”

You can still have more than three dogs and seven cats, but you’ll need a permit. The process involves drawing out kennels and cat enclosures on your property as part of the permit process, and Animal Services then notifies nearby neighbors that the legal limit of dogs, cats, or exotics has been surpassed.

“We also do an inspection of the property to ensure it complies with code,” Schull added.

Neighbors have the opportunity to contest the permit, and the permit applicant has to ensure that their animals are not going to be a nuisance.

Previously, the Animal Services Board would hear contested applications. The board would approve the permit, but this required public meetings, which included staffing, recording, and an attorney on hand to ensure open meeting law requirements are met.

That’s changing. The new ordinance means Animal Services makes the decision about permits.

“Animal Services (will) approve, deny, or revoke permits,” Schull added, saying that permits will be handled internally.

If denied, you can appeal to the county’s administrative hearing office; after that, you’ll have to go to court, something exotic animal owners are not happy with.

John Potash spoke during public comment. He said that the change gives too much power to Animal Services.

“Animal Services has a history of recommending denial of exotic animal permits to the (Animal Control Board),” he said, “sometimes using the vague and subjective language that’s in code — that should be removed — and sometimes with no just cause at all, even when the applicants have met all of the criteria outlined in code.”

Appealing to district court, he added, “comes with its own massive demands and challenges.”

Schull disagreed. She said that most permits get approved.

“Due process is built-in,” she explained.

via GIPHY

County: Exotics Get Different Listings For Health, Public Safety Reasons

The liger may be magical, but it's also considered dangerous. Image: Ali West / Flickr, republished under Creative Commons.
The liger may be magical, but it’s also considered dangerous. You’ll need a permit to own one in Washoe County. Image: Ali West / Flickr, republished under Creative Commons licensing.

Exotic animals – everything from sugar gliders and macaques to pumas and wolves – are now listed under three tiers.

Tier 1 animals do not require a permit, but tiers 2 and 3 do. Schull said that the current code is ambiguous.

“We wanted to clarify the code and break out the animals by species and inherent danger (as well as) make it clear to the lay person,” she said. “The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) helped to establish the list.”

Schull cited the changes as necessary for public safety. Law enforcement discovered an alligator in somebody’s home when conducting a search warrant.

“A macaque monkey (also) caused a complaint,” she explained. “It jumped on a trampoline, got on the roof of the residence, a neighbor noticed it, and called. It ended up getting permitted, but the owner had an enclosure in her residence, (and) it was being exercised outside unsupervised.”

Another incident was more startling. Two cougars were found on a resident’s roof in Washoe Valley in 2008.

“The call came in as two large cats on the roof of a residence,” Schull explained. “These cats were not permitted, and the resident was keeping them in enclosures that were not adequate for this species of cat.

“One enclosure was inside of a garage for the male leopard, and the female was kept in the backyard in an enclosure with no top or climb-prohibitive cantilever top, according to the reports that we have on file.”

The cougars had to be tranquilized by NDOW to get them safely contained.

Schull said that there are only 10 permit holders for exotic animals in the county, but knowing where exotics are means law enforcement and animal enforcement officers are not taken by surprise in the case of an incident involving the animals.

“I think we have a lot of exotics in our community that we don’t even have a clue about,” Schull said. “We’re trying to come up with fair, articulate, and reasonable oversight over animals in our community. We want to ensure we are providing some safety nets in terms of liability.

“We have these in place for dangerous dogs. Why would we not have them with exotic animals?”

Potash also criticized the new tier system.

Tiers 2 and 3 permits are arduous and expensive, he said, and some animals, such as the capybara, don’t belong in the dangerous animals list. (The Daily Mail called the capybara “the friendliest creature on the planet.”)

Schull said that enforcement of the new ordinances is a complaint-driven process.

The ordinance was approved with changes at last week’s commission meeting. It goes up for a second and final approval at the commission’s Jan. 23, 2018 meeting.

The New Tiers for Exotic Animals

  • Tier 1: animals usually found in pet stores. These do not require permits. Examples: Guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, gophers, domestic ferrets, sugar gliders, etc.
  • Tier 2: animals that pose a moderate health, safety, or environmental risk. A permit is required. Examples: Constrictors 12 feet or longer and 30 pounds or greater, prairie dogs, servals, kinkajous, etc.
  • Tier 3: animals that pose a significant health, safety, or environmental risk. A permit is required. Examples: marsupials, badgers, weasels, tigers, bears, wolves, hyenas, non-human primates, giraffes, magical ligers, and elephants.

The journalism you depend on also depends on you

Help keep ThisisReno free and open to all.

About Bob Conrad 869 Articles
Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company (disclosure: he has two part-time contracts working for the University of Nevada, Reno). He is a part-time faculty member at Truckee Meadows Community College and is a regular contributor to Reno Public Radio.

9 Comments

  1. This proposal was definitely NOT drawn up by educated professionals. They refer multiple times to constrictor snakes as “restrictors”. Not only that but they explicitly told the board of commissioners that the state of Nevada does not regulate exotic animals when it in fact DOES. They are blatantly lying to the board in order to severely and unjustly restrict animal ownership and pass the agenda. Not to mention that they did not consult anyone that owns exotics or has experience with them when writing up this ordinance.

    There are animals on the list that are already regulated by NDOW and now they want to double permit them. They claim it is for animal welfare purposes but what does putting in for a second permit have to do with animal welfare? It’s a cash grab. The list does not even list any species of fish or invertebrates.

  2. “We have these in place for dangerous dogs. Why would we not have them with exotic animals?”

    THIS STATEMENT IS VERY MISLEADING!

    You can have a dog of any size or breed and the only requirement is an annual license and a current rabies shot. That is it! Now, if that dogs bites or attacks someone, then there is a judicial process which can deem the dog dangerous, then there is a whole section of code to deal with keeping of that dog. This is the American premise of innocent until proven guilty.

    The list of ‘exotics’ however, are guilty, period! No opportunity for presumed innocence at all, even though most of them are well natured or in the case of their tier list, not remotely dangerous at all.

    Again….Imagine this! One person in this country has a Weimaraner, and it bites a person. Now, they create a law that makes all Weimaraner owner’s file for permits subject to $250,000 liability insurance, mandatory property inspections, notifying all of your neighbors asking if you can have permission to keep this vicious animal (even though yours is as sweet as a baby), and many other conditions as they see fit to impose on you. So you go through this whole process, spend thousands of dollars on the kennel to meet specifications because you love your dog and don’t want to loose her, and then animal control says, well…it’s a safety threat so you can’t have a permit.

    That is exactly what is going on with ‘exotic’ animals here. I get that some animals are capable of presenting slightly more danger than, say a big dog…..but there are many animals on this list that they will make you do this for, that have never, in the history of EVER, killed or even severely harmed a person. So why in the hell does a person have to treat this harmless animal as some vicious killer when they have never harmed anything in their lives?!

  3. Imagine if they wanted to severely restrict your ability to drive, because someone else made a mistake? Imagine if they said you have to get all of your neighbors permission before you are allowed to own a firearm? Imagine if they took away your baseball bats because someone else used one to commit a crime?

    That is what is going on here. A few, minor incidents where people were already breaking the law, now they want to come in and punish all the good people because of it. This is what we are fighting against!

    Just look at the ‘instances’ cited in this article as reasoning for these changes. This alligator that supposed presented a public safety risk was only 4’ long, contained in a tank, and animal control knew of its presence in the county for at least 3 months prior to it being ‘discovered’. A friend saw it at a local shelter, when he took some permit paperwork into animal control, he told the field supervisor about the alligator, and he was told they were aware of it. The persons home they found it in 3 months later, was a board member of that rescue.

    Alligators are already prohibited by county code AND by the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
    The macaque…required a county permit that they owner did not have at the time. The 2 leopards from 10 years ago also required permits the owners did not have.

    So I ask this….what good is it to make something illegal, more illegaler? All these laws do is hurt good, law abiding citizens, while those willing to break the law, will continue to break the law. And law enforcement already has the authority to handle these situations with current laws on the books, so it is not like they need to create more laws that again, only hurt the good people.

    If they truly cared about public safety and animal welfare, they would create a realistic and attainable permit system. Instead, they have created something so difficult and disparaging that animal keepers are not going to apply for fear of losing their animals when they can’t meet all of the conditions and/or animal control denies them.

    That is what is going on here. A few, minor incidents where people were already breaking the law, now they want to come in and punish all the good people because of it. This is what we are fighting against!

  4. Oh boy, were do I begin with this. While I appreciate the quotes presenting our side, it is far from complete as to the position all alternative animal keepers in this county have.
    First off, I would like it to be absolutely clear that we (most alternative animal keepers) are not opposed to REASONABLE regulations and oversight. We have all seen the bad situations by irresponsible or immoral people….not only with ‘exotic’ animals, but with dogs, cats, and even children. It is unfortunate, but it happens and no laws on the books are going to stop it from happening.
    What we are opposed to is the broad, ambiguous, subjective, and overly restrictive requirements and conditions that will only hurt good animal keepers and many which are contrary to good animal husbandry. That is exactly what this latest proposed draft is that we have been fighting against.
    We have tried, numerous times, in good faith to work with and offer subject matter expertise to animal control in the process of writing this, but they are not interested in our suggestions, and in fact, made more restrictive and punitive changes after we met and offered assistance. It is agenda driven government abuse at its finest.

  5. Let me get this straight. Washoe County already requires a permit for these animals and people with these animals did not have the permits. So, by passing some absurdly hard to obtain and lengthy permit process the County is now expecting people to comply? How does that make any sense? The permit process needs to be simple and straightforward or it will never work. Get a clue Board of Commissioners!

    And how long have they been wasting my tax dollars working on this? Years!? This article says years!? I looked over the proposal on the government website. If this is what my tax dollars get after “years” of work, I want my money back! And a set of new Commissioners, too! (at least those who approved this nonsense)

  6. As a retired police officer and a volunteer firefighter, I can tell you that the next line is completely flawed: “Schull said that… knowing where exotics are means law enforcement and animal enforcement officers are not taken by surprise in the case of an incident involving the animals.”

    This woman has no clue what she is talking about. As any type of officer or military personnel will tell you, you are trained to expect the unexpected. While there may be permits for some animals, it never means there are not other, unpermitted exotic animals. This woman is wacky! I cannot count the number of times I entered residences only to find dogs which were not licensed. If people fail to get simple dog licenses, is this County Board actually expecting owners to complete this unjust permit process, especially for harmless animals like kinkajous or snakes kept in cages?

    While I served, I often saw proposals like this in which no subject matter experts were consulted. It seems here that Animal Services is speaking for all the police officers and firefighters in Washoe County. Did they even speak with these departments, or is she simply regurgitating a line she was fed to the press? This County seems to be yet another corrupt small government.

  7. This is not just a permit, as is being presented by Shyanne Schull of Animal Services. The permit process is a draconian web of work for anyone seeking to be responsible and obtain one. It requires expensive and hard to obtain liability insurance, a site inspection providing WCRAS access to your entire home and property (not just where the animals are kept), caging standards higher than those required by the American Zoological Association (AZA), etc. This is not a permit. It is a process far worse than any IRS audit.

    This ordinance is a punishment of the responsible animal keepers who will strive to get a permit while others will simply not comply and never be caught. If public safety and knowing where these animals were are the true intents, then the permit process would not be overbearing and unlawful.

    This is not about public safety, as Schull and WCRAS suggest. It is about making it impossible for animal owners to comply, thus making it impossible to have these animals legally.

  8. This reference and cited example is not relevant in the least! “Schull cited the changes as necessary for public safety. Law enforcement discovered an alligator in somebody’s home when conducting a search warrant.”

    Alligators are already banned by the State of Nevada! This person was already breaking a law by having an alligator. And how is passing an overreaching ordinance which will force people to hide their animals going to protect the public’s safety? WCRAS needs to take a step back and fix this proposal. Not a single argument on their end is valid.

    Another example: “We have these in place for dangerous dogs. Why would we not have them with exotic animals?”

    Well, she is wrong again as the comparison is not apples to apples. A dog is considered dangerous after it bites or attacks someone. This is not the case for their listed exotic animals. They are automatically considered dangerous, which is different than the manner in which it works for “dangerous dogs.” So a capybara is automatically dangerous, whereas a certain breed of dog is not. I’d like to see a report of a capybara attack. The species is common at petting zoos! This is a petting zoo species and WCRAS will require the owner to have $250,000 in liability insurance… for a big guinea pig! It is beyond absurd!

  9. Shyanne Schull, director of Washoe County Regional Animal Services, is lying to the press. Her following statement is absurd and completely false, “We’re trying to come up with fair, articulate, and reasonable oversight over animals in our community.” Instead, the ordinance proposal is overbearing, unjust, and it even contains misinformation. There were absolutely zero subject matter experts consulted and the language of the proposal clearly displays this. While WCRAS claims to have worked with “experts,” they did not. As just one example, they use the term “cold-blooded” to define reptiles. They are not cold-blooded. They are ectothermic. Cold-blooded is used to teach kindergartners about reptiles. It is not a term used by experts and WCRAS is making the whole of Washoe County, including the Board of Commissioners, look like uneducated fools.

    This ordinance is perhaps the most overreaching proposal in the U.S. Until just last week it required the sterilization of exotic animals. This was an animal welfare hazard, but WCRAS wanted it to happen. It took a veterinarian who actually works with exotic animals, as none had obviously consulted prior, to come to the public hearing and plead that this requirement be removed before it happened. WCRAS is operating in a completely biased manner and all of Washoe County needs to be aware.

    This proposal is filled with unconstitutional language, including giving WCRAS the right to go wherever they please on the property of those requesting permits. Instead of inspecting only the caging, this ordinance will give WCRAS the power to inspect the entire “premises” (i.e. the entirety of the property).

    The list of overreaching requirements continues and Washoe residents should appear at the next hearing in opposition. Not a single member of the general public appeared in favor of the ordinance at the last hearing. Not one! Yet, the Board voted to pass it as is while ignoring all those who came and provided completely valid and factual reasoning as to why it should be amended further. This ordinance proposal is nothing more than bad government being forced upon the citizens by a biased Board and a biased WCRAS.

    There does exist a common-sense way for animal services to obtain “fair, articulate, and reasonable oversight” over animals. This is not it! This is an overreaching proposal for something which should be nowhere nearly this draconian. This Shyanne Schull obviously needs to move on or be fired as she clearly does not truly have the best interests of the animals, Washoe County residents, or WCRAS in mind.

Comments are closed.