By NICK STANEK
Capital News Service
LANSING — Officers would no longer be required to euthanize unlicensed dogs if a bill sent to the governor’s office is signed.
The bill would remove a requirement that is rarely followed, said Rep. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, the bill’s sponsor.
It changes an antiquated part of the dog law of 1919 that legally requires officers to euthanize unlicensed dogs. In other words, dog owners who fail to get their dogs registered risk having their dogs killed.
“We never do that,” said Wendy Frosland, an officer from Mackinac County Animal Control. “The state law requires us to keep the animal for five to seven days. Our county ordinance allows us to keep them for up to 10 days.”
After the 10 days, Forsland said, the animals are given to a non-profit organization that takes care of their needs.
“They have them neutered, spayed, and they find them a home,” she said.
The legislation is meant to update the law so that it matches typical procedures officers follow when they are dealing with unlicensed dogs, O’Brien said.
“It isn’t being enforced because no one wants to [euthanize] innocent dogs,” she said, “It’s a old law that was put into place when our culture had a different attitude towards dogs.”
The law was created in 1919 when keeping dogs as domesticated pets was a fairly new concept, said Linda Reider, director of statewide initiatives for the Michigan Humane Society.
“This dates from the days dogs ran loose when rabies being passed to humans was a bigger concern,” Reider said, “Dogs get rabies from wild animals. If they are running loose without a rabies shot, and they are bit by a wild animal, they can become infected. In order to get a dog license, they have to get a rabies shot.”
Reider said she supports the legislation and that there is no need for an officer to shoot an innocent dog.
“This law will not stop an officer from killing a dog that is attacking a child or one that is severely injured with no hope of survival,” she said. “In that case, it would be more humane to shoot the animal in the brain than it would be to bring it all the way to a shelter to give it a shot if it is in a lot of pain.”
Reider said she is more concerned about unlicensed breeders keeping their dogs in poor conditions. Last year, officers seized more than 150 puppies from a dog breeder in Missaukee County. The case gained widespread media coverage across the state and raised concerns about the regulation of dog breeders.
“[Those puppies] were in such poor condition,” Reider said, “and there is no system that tracks animal cruelty cases.”
Reider said that is because regulations for dog breeders aren’t strict enough.
The Michigan Humane Society is working on a Senate bill that would require dog breeders to follow humane guidelines.
By NICK STANEK