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  • Jordan D. Smith

Portland: Stray Dog Paradise?

Recently there seems to be a lot of talk about stray animals on social media. “Loose dog on Lincoln and Brush intersection. Would not let me approach.” “There’s a black dog [with a] blue collar that’s constantly loose. It’s sad! Take care of your’s gonna get hit!” These are just a few of the Facebook posts about loose or lost animals in town in the past weeks. There was even this humorous post from a concerned citizen, “does anyone know why the chicken crossed the road? Me either but he’s up on Lincoln St just past Brush St this morning moving his little legs as fast as they could go to dodge the school traffic!!”

One of our readers, particularly concerned about the stray cats, which Portland appears to have in abundance, suggested the Beacon report on this issue. “All the sudden Portland has an influx of stray cats,” she observed. “What can we do as a community...does our city have any ordinance or action plan in place for this? I am highly allergic to them and don't want them on my property. I also don't want them killed.” We reached out to the Ionia County Animal Control Department and the Portland Police Department (PPD) for answers.

According to Chief Star Thomas of the PPD, “I don’t believe Portland has a large number of stray animals. I think that it may appear that way due to the posts we see on social media, but the police department actually takes in very few animals. Everyone has been great about working to get pets back where they belong.” Thomas says that the PPD does pick up lost dogs and work to reunite them with their owners. They work in conjunction with the county animal control to enforce state laws and local ordinances concerning dogs. Thomas says this cooperation is especially important if they are investigating cases, “such as animal hoarding, unsanitary conditions, or animal abuse or neglect.” County officials did not respond to requests for information as of this writing.

The PPD, “is dispatched to calls involving...loose dogs, barking dogs, vicious animals, etc. We’ll pick up dogs and make attempts to get them back to the owners,” says Chief Thomas. In addition, “Portland Veterinary has been great about helping us by scanning for microchips. We take the dogs to the shelter if we’re unable to keep them,” she says. Neither the city or county pick up stray cats, though the Ionia County Animal Control and Shelter website says that they accept surrendered cats and dogs.

We asked Chief Thomas what local laws should dog owners know about? A complete listing of the ordinances pertaining to keeping animals in the city can be found HERE. Here are a few highlights.

  • Dogs must be licensed in Ionia County and have a current rabies vaccination.

  • Dogs must remain on their owner's property or be restrained by a leash when in public.

  • Owners must promptly clean up after their pets when they defecate on any property other than their own.

  • Owners are responsible for keeping their dogs from frequent barking or causing annoyance to the neighborhood.

  • Owners are responsible if their dog bites/attacks a person or another animal.

In case you were wondering, apparently, there are no laws or ordinances pertaining to cats in the city. As far as that loose chicken, city ordinance does require she be kept in a chicken coop and her owner needs a license from the city among other requirements. So I guess that chicken can keep pecking its way across Lincoln Street, at its own risk--at least until it gets to the other side.

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