The job title, Animal Control Officer (ACO) often brings countless stereotypes and images to the public’s mind: “dog catchers,” animal trackers, cruelty investigators, roadkill control, emergency animal medical responders, exterminators, and law enforcers. Some view ACOs like they do police officers; they try to avoid them, until they really need them! The Cheyenne Animal Shelter’s ACOs work tirelessly each and every day of the year to enforce and address animal welfare laws and concerns, providing assistance to both animals and the public.
I’m sure many of you have questions about animal control issues and laws, so we’ve conducted an interview with ACO, Don Kremer, who has served with the Shelter for the past four years. Below is a subset of all the responses. To view the entire list, please see Animal Control FAQs.
Q: What types of calls do you get on a typical day?
A: We handle a wide variety of calls that reach as high as a felony as in animal cruelty cases, but also range between nuisance complaints such as barking to investigating dog bites and animal attacks, to assisting loose and injured animals, and checking on dogs left in hot cars. Common priority calls include: outside agency assists (helping the Cheyenne or Pine Bluffs Police Departments, the Sheriff’s Department, Highway Patrol, Fire Department, or Game and Fish, with animal related calls, as well as welfare checks (animals not being cared for properly), animal abuse/neglect, and injured animals. We are not authorized to arrest suspects, but we conduct investigations and assist with evidence in prosecution of animal cruelty cases.
Q: How many calls do you respond to, on average, per day?
A: The Laramie County/City of Cheyenne ACO unit responds, on average, to 15-35 calls per day (varying seasonally) adding up to approximately 8,200 calls per year.
Q: Do you just cover the City of Cheyenne or the whole of Laramie County?
A: The two officers on duty are responsible for a jurisdiction expanding from the City of Cheyenne to all of Laramie County which includes Burns, Carpenter, Horse Creek, Federal, Hillsdale, and Pine Bluffs. We also cover all areas within the County including open range, farms, and ranches.
Q: Do you answer calls for any and all types of animals?
A: Yes, we will respond to any calls related to animals, but we work in conjunction with other agencies such as the Sheriff’s Dept. for livestock in the County, and Game and Fish for wildlife. We are also called to scenes by law enforcement when there is a human death involved – to safely remove any animals and take them into protective custody at the Shelter until arrangements can be made by family or friends to care for them. In addition, we assist other agencies for search warrants and crime scenes where animals are involved which might impede the agency’s duties and performance.
Q: If you conduct a welfare check based on possible neglect or abuse, can you take the animal?
A: If we suspect the animal is suffering from neglect and/or abuse, based on the condition of the animal and environmental evidence, we can confiscate the animal from a yard or from a structure that is not a livable dwelling. If the animal is inside the house, we must summon the owner to contact us or get a search warrant through law enforcement. If we take the animal based on probable cause with supporting evidence, the animal is impounded and remains at the Shelter until the defendant appears in court and the case is finally adjudicated.
Q: Is overpopulation a problem? If so, what happens to the animals that go unclaimed and do not get adopted and why?
A: We are not seeing the numbers of puppies that we used to, but we are still overwhelmed with kittens and cats. We try to save every animal we can, but we struggle with the feral cat and neonatal populations during kitten season. Because of this, we are constantly looking for more foster homes to help save the under-aged kittens, as well as funding to expand programs such as our Feral Cat Program, TNR, Barn Cat Program, and other community resources as funding allows.
Q: Do animals ever have to be put down because of lack of space and why?
A: The Cheyenne Animal Shelter is an OPEN INTAKE facility which means we take in EVERY animal presented to us. However, for dogs we are categorically and descriptively considered as a no-kill shelter with some exceptions due to public humane issues and public safety. All animal shelters are faced with the sad demise of euthanasia. The Cheyenne Animal Shelter does not euthanize dogs for time or space, however we do sometimes have to euthanize the ones who are not safe for placement, who are too sick and cannot be treated by our dedicated vet staff, or who are too young and do not have foster placement. We actively continue to strive towards increasing our life-saving efforts. For dogs, our live release rate is over 90 percent! We have seen our live-release rate for cats steadily increase over the years and will continue working to achieve ever-higher live release numbers.
Q: What is the protocol if my dog bites someone? If I am bitten by a dog?
A: Bite cases involve several considerations. First and foremost is the victim. If the victim is a person or a dog, we immediately want to know if the biting dog is vaccinated against rabies. Pending that discovery, our next consideration moves to public safety. We want to know if this is a first offense or an animal with a repetitive history in biting. In owner/victim cases, we often allow the animal to remain in the custody of the owner and place the animal on a “home quarantine” if it is current on vaccinations.
Depending on other factors, especially if the animal is NOT vaccinated, we will bring the animal to the Shelter for a medical observation quarantine. Finally, bite cases often involve medical restitution costs. In those cases, the owner of the animal will be charged for public nuisance or harboring a vicious animal and MUST appear in Circuit Court. It is not uncommon, if the owner is found guilty, for the animal to be permanently surrendered to the Shelter. In addition, the owner will be fined and made to pay all out of pocket expenses, specifically the medical costs associated with the bite.
Q: Are dogs allowed to be tethered/chained?
A: If a shelter with a chain is used as a primary enclosure for a dog kept outdoors, the chain must be placed or attached to avoid entanglement with chains of other dogs or any other object. A chain should be at least three times the length of the dog as measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail, and the dog must be allowed convenient and safe access to food, water and shelter.
Q: Are there any laws/ordinances requiring pets to be brought inside due to freezing temps?
A: There is no law in place or City ordinance marking a temperature line at this time. However, shelter from the elements must be provided for a domestic animal being kept outside. It is up to the ACO’s field discretion to decide if an animal is suffering and in danger due to extreme weather. The ACO will discuss the situation with the pet owner, and if no owner is present, may confiscate the animal and take it to the Shelter for evaluation and protection.
Wyoming Statute 6-3-203 (B) is clear, that every animal owner must provide their animals with the proper food, drink, and protection from the weather; and any owner that cruelly abandons the animal, or in the case of immediate, obvious, serious illness or injury, fails to provide the animal with appropriate care, is subject to penalties for animal cruelty.
Q: How do you decide to rescue a dog left in a car in hot or freezing temperatures? What steps do you take to remove the dog?
A: Factors are taken into account: the ambient temperature, length of time the vehicle has been unattended, ventilation, condition and behavior of the animal(s), and the location of the vehicle. ACOs must determine the severity of each circumstance and also work to educate the public on what is reasonable for an animal’s safety and proper care.
We will try to find the owner as soon as possible, especially when the vehicle is parked in front of a store or business. If we must open the vehicle, we will typically use specialized tools to gain access with minimum or no damage to the vehicle. If the circumstance warrants emergency entry and the vehicle cannot be accessed by use of our tools, we will gain entry through the window. In such cases, the owner of the pet is responsible for any damages to the vehicle.
If the owner does not return to the vehicle and the animal is taken to the Shelter for care, a reclaim fee may be charged. If there is a case for animal cruelty or neglect, and the case goes to court, the owner may be charged up to $750 for the violation.
Q: Are dogs allowed to ride in the back of pickup trucks?
A: Dogs in the City of Cheyenne are allowed to ride in the back of trucks only if they are tethered. ACOs cannot conduct traffic stops for this however, and it would need to handled by the police. Although, if the truck is stopped in a parking lot, an animal can be taken by an ACO if the driver does not cooperate in accordance with the City ordinance.
Q: What fine is imposed for a dog running-at-large and being taken into the Shelter to be reclaimed? First offense, second, third?
A: Dog-at-large fines vary between the City and the County:
In the City, the fine for first offense for an altered dog is $60/for an unaltered dog it is $75, and no rabies tag displayed is $60. Second offense is $85/$100. Third offense is $100 for altered dogs, and for unaltered dogs, it is a mandatory appearance in court.
In the County, first offense is $50, no rabies tag displayed is $50. Second offense is $100 or must appear in court. For a third offense, there is not a graduated increasing fine, but the ACO can mark the citation as a “must appear” which removes the option to simply post bond and not appear in court.
Q: Are all pets required by law to have rabies shots? Are older or sick dogs exempt due to immunity or weakened health?
A: Yes, in the City all pets must be vaccinated against rabies. “Pets” in the City are defined as dogs, cats, or ferrets. In the City, the animal must be vaccinated starting from four months old. In the County, the animal must be vaccinated starting from three months old. The County does not designate ferrets being required for rabies vaccination. Exemptions in the City and County are considered for older animals or ones with compromised health, but only with a letter from a veterinarian.
Q: How many animals are people allowed to have in the City/County?
A: In the City, you may have four domestic animals. “Animal” is defined as a live, vertebrate creature, domestic or wild. Any dwelling unit or other property maintaining more than four dogs is considered a kennel and the property must meet zoning requirements. In the County, there is no set limit on the number of animals you may have.
Q: If I have a complaint about an animal, can I request to be anonymous?
A: Yes, we understand how contentious it can be to report someone, especially a close neighbor, and we will retain your anonymity. However, if the ACO is NOT a witness to a crime and the only witness is the complaining party, the complainant’s identity will be revealed according to the Constitution’s 6th Amendment which includes the right of the accused to confront their accusers. For this reason, some cases do not make it into court where the complainant is in fear of disclosure.
To request a welfare check on an animal, report a loose or injured animal, report an animal bite or file a complaint about an animal, please contact Animal Control Dispatch at 307-635-1453 or after hours 307-286-5089. For Lost & Found after hours, please call: 307-214-5779.