Columbia Township Chief of Police David Elwell

Columbia Township Chief of Police David Elwell

An issue of merit for law enforcement issues in Columbia Township is the “Dog Law”, or what is commonly referred to as the “Leash Law”.  The County of Jackson has, for some time, had what is known as the “Animal Control Ordinance”.  It has been on the books for quite some time, but has recently been amended.  Much of the language in that local ordinance is also codified in State Law.

To allow the County Animal Control Officers to enforce the animal control ordinance in Columbia Township, several years ago the local ordinance on the books for Columbia Township was eliminated.  State law and attorney general opinion make clear that where a local government entity has their own “animal control ordinance”, the County Animal Control Officers cannot legally enforce the County Ordinance.  This would have been unwise, as they are the experts in this area, and accordingly, Columbia Township vacated that part of the local ordinance.  Since that time, Columbia Township Officers have enforced animal control issues by their ability to enforce (and seek prosecution) on violations of the County Ordinance.

The harsh reality is that the Jackson County Board of Commissioners eliminated funding for Animal Control Officers in the 2014 County Budget, meaning beginning on January 1, 2014, all calls for service for animal control type calls will be handles by whichever police officer is able to respond.

The County “Animal Control Ordinance” is approximately 31 pages long, and it is available on the Jackson County website, or click a link to it here:

In addition to Columbia Township Police Officers being able to enforce the Jackson County Animal Control Ordinance, there are several sections in State Law dealing with dogs, which we can and do enforce and prosecute under.

Although you can review the Animal Control Ordinance at the link above, a couple of the relevant and useful portions deal with dogs running at large, and licensing.  Essentially, if you own a dog, you are required to have it licensed (through the Jackson County Treasurer’s Office).  Additionally, a person who owns or has custody or control of a dog shall prevent the dog from running at large.  This means when out in public with a dog, it must be leashed.  It also means it may not simply wander out of the owner’s yard to roam a neighborhood.

Lastly, when the County Animal Control Ordinance was most recently revised (2011), the option of issuing “Civil Infractions” for violations was granted as an enforcement option, in addition to the normal Misdemeanor (criminal) option.  The benefit to the civil infraction is lower fines, with some violations being dismissed when compliance with licensing violations were reached.

David K. Elwell
Chief of Police
Columbia Township