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New regulations for Federal Way pet owners include poop and scoop rules, cat licensing

Pet owners will be subject to new regulations, including a poop and scoop law, under the city’s recently amended animal services code.

The Federal Way Police Department has provided animal services for nine months. The unit found it necessary earlier this month to clarify, revise and add chapters to the existing animal code.

A poop and scoop law was included as a new chapter. Sections regarding animal cruelty and hobby cattery were revised and parks were added to the list of places where aggressive dogs will be considered a nuisance.

Language was added to clarify what constitutes an animal bite, how animal services will abate nuisances and how a dangerous dog will be disposed at the animal shelter.

Waste disposal

Pet owners who do not pick up after their pets in public places are subject to the city’s new poop and scoop law. Many of the city’s parks require pet owners to clean up after their animals, but until now, similar action was not required outside parks.

“The law is a response to a lot of complaints we get from homeowners,” said Cmdr. Melanie McAllester. “Neighbors let their dogs go on their neighbor’s lawn.”

It’s useful to have a specific code to deal with this issue rather than falling back on the city’s trespassing code, McAllester said.

Animal cruelty

Police now have the authority to forcefully enter a vehicle when they see an animal left inside it on a hot day. Animal services gets numerous calls, sometimes up to three a day during scorching summer days, to respond to animals left inside vehicles, McAllester said.

“Some of the public is extra sensitive to dogs being left in cars in warm weather,” she said.

Police will only break in to free the animal if it appears to be in distress, McAllester said. They will first make an effort to find the pet’s owner, she said. Previously, pet owners could be punished with a criminal misdemeanor for leaving their pets locked inside a vehicle during warm weather. Now, pet owners may be issued either a civil infraction or a misdemeanor per the officer’s discretion.

Federal Way resident and dog owner Walt Smith said he supports both the waste disposal and animal cruelty code changes. Smith said he picks up after his pet, but has noticed that some dog owners in his neighborhood do not do the same.

Hobby cattery

In hopes of encouraging cat owners to license their cats and adopt more felines, the definition of a hobby cattery was expanded. A resident may now own up to five cats before he or she is considered to be operating a cattery. The code previously allowed up to three cats. Per city code, it is unlawful to keep, maintain, or operate a cattery or shelter without first obtaining a permit from Seattle-King County Department of Public Health.

There is an abundance of cats at the animal shelter and the animal services department is optimistic the code change will encourage residents to adopt more cats, McAllester said.

Nuisances, bites, disposal

An animal that has three times been found in violation of the city’s public nuisance code, or that has bitten or attacked a person twice in a five-year period, is subject to abatement. This could include the removal of the animal from city limits or the destruction of the animal. A code revision now leaves it up to the animal service director to decide in what circumstances abatement will be enforced.

Language was added to the code to clarify that disposal of a dangerous animal refers to humane destruction. This refers to euthanasia, McAllester said. Along the same lines, language was added to the code, clarifying that a bite is defined as an action that punctures the skin.

Additionally, parks are now places where aggressive dogs are considered a nuisance.

Federal Way chose to split in February 2010 from an inter-local agreement with King County for animal services. King County Animal Care and Control provided Federal Way with animal services since the city’s 1990 incorporation. The city decided it could offer citizens a better service at a more affordable price after learning the county’s prices could increase.

Federal Way contracts with The Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County to house and adopt lost or abandoned pets. Calls for service to Federal Way’s animal services unit have increased over the number of calls placed to King County for animal services, McAllester said. Licensing, which is the program’s primary revenue and operating source, has increased by 5 percent, she said.

Learn more

For more information about Federal Way’s animal services visit www.cityoffederalway.com/Page.aspx?page=2278.

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