by Ivy Socha
Whether it’s being greeted at home by a dog’s excited bark or a cat’s gentle purr, a pet can be a great addition to a family. But, in the city of Independence, there are certain rules and limitations to owning an animal.
In chapter 618 of the city’s codified ordinances are several animal-related regulations. One ordinance entitled “Wild or Dangerous Animals” lists over thirty different animals that residents of Independence are not permitted to have. From badgers, to porcupines, to water buffalo, animals that are seen as “not naturally tame or gentle” or have the potential to cause harm if the animal escaped from a secure property are considered wild or dangerous, and therefore prohibited.
This long list also includes animals that are listed by the U.S. Department of Interior or the Ohio Revised Code as endangered species, any animal or reptile that is poisonous, and any animal, regardless of domestication, that is considered to be wild or dangerous by the ordinance definition. According to the ordinance, anyone who violates this rule is guilty of a minor misdemeanor for a first offense and a misdemeanor of the first degree for any subsequent offense.
Judy Burrier, animal control officer for Independence and Seven Hills said she commonly receives complaints about barking dogs or dogs running at large, raccoon issues, skunks, groundhogs and opossums.
“I have had people have snakes in their homes I have removed,” she said, adding that she’s had unique encounters with a “sulcata tortoise running at large, a large iguana about four-foot [and] one alligator I took out of an abandoned home.”
Burrier said that solutions to calls vary by circumstance. In an instance where raccoons are getting into a trash can, residents can move the can into a garage or install a product to keep the lid closed. A bird feeder with a seed catch prevents seed from falling and attracting animals other than birds.
“Being proactive and realizing that many animals are good to have around is a solution,” Burrier said. “Being that Independence is on the edge of a national park should be realized.”
She said skunks can act as pest control for mice and opossums eat up to four or five thousand ticks in a season. “Trapping is not a permanent solution to nuisance animals and may be a worse outcome. If you don’t fix the reason they are there in the first place, another animal will move in to the area and may be worse than the original,” Burrier said.
Not only is there an ordinance limiting what animals Independence residents can own, but there are also ordinances that directly define the rules to owning the animals that are permitted. The first is called “Keeping Chickens,” which was adopted in September 2021. It strictly limits the number of female chickens to six in a space up to twenty thousand square feet, and does not allow for roosters. These chickens are to be fenced in or enclosed at all times, and coops are only permitted in the backyard area of the resident’s home.
Burrier said chickens are common to see in Independence and some residents have buttonquail, while one resident with a lot of acreage has cows.
Another ordinance is “Maximum Number of Dogs Permitted.” The rule states, “Not more than two dogs, except puppies not over three months old, may be kept in any single-family dwelling within the city.” If a family wishes to own more than the allowed number of dogs, an application can be sent to the police department with necessary information about the dog being granted ownership. The breed, age, name of the dog, and medical information from a veterinarian should be included.
“With domestic animals, realize that there are ordinances in place to keep animals safe from some people, and people safe from some animals,” Burrier said. “Your pet is your responsibility.” ∞