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Cottage Grove's ordinance changes crack down on service animals, pet species

Cottage Grove City Hall. File photo

COTTAGE GROVE — To better handle animal control calls, City Council approved ordinance amendments that add clarification on service animals, banned species and more.

"We wanted to make sure that it was better, more well-read for law enforcement (and) community service officers so that they may be able to inform the public and enforce if necessary, but more importantly it was to provide better definition and assistance," Sgt. Mike McCormick said at the March 21 City Council meeting.

The changes concentrate mostly on the definition of service animals and banned pet species, but also include dangerous dog designations, animal waste, dogs at large, pet seizure practices and nuisances.

Cottage Grove Police Department used the Americans with Disabilities Act definition of service animals to clarify what can be considered one.

"This has kind of become a hot-button — what exactly is a service animal," McCormick said. "We've had this challenge multiple times here already."

Their previous definition included only service dogs. The amendment allows more species, but clarifies that they must be animals specifically trained to assist someone with a disability. It excludes comfort and emotional support animals.

The department also clarified its list of banned pets and animals to take out the gray area, McCormick said.

Pot-bellied pigs, a pet that some people have asked the city to allow in previous years, are specifically prohibited. Pigeons, chickens and other livestock are prohibited from residential areas, but are allowed in rural areas. Up to four chickens can be kept on lots of at least 3 acres. 

Officers consulted with the Humane Society while drafting the changes, and at the end of the process the organization's lead investigator offered to become a hearing officer for free because the city contracts with the nonprofit. The hearing process is for residents to appeal dangerous dog designations.

The ordinance was last updated in 2007, and before that hadn't changed since 1971.

The City Council approved the changes 5-0 in the consent agenda at the March 21 meeting.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story said that more than four chickens were prohibited in residential areas. Chickens are only allowed on lots of at least three acres.