Herriman permits animal control to issue civil citations
Officer Michelle Jones, a Salt Lake County animal control officer who works in Herriman, said the most common animal violation is allowing dogs to roam without a leash in public parks. Jones and other animal control officers can now issue civil citations to violators instead of criminal citations. (Kelly Cannon/City Journals)
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Herriman City residents may now receive a civil citation for violations related to animal control. While this may sound like a negative adoption, it may be better than the alternative.
Before Feb. 8, animal control officers, like Officer Michelle Jones, could only offer verbal warnings or criminal citations to people who violated state or city law regarding pets.
“For instance, if dogs were running off leash in the parks, their owners can get a criminal citation, which, for me, is a bit extreme in most cases,” Jones said to the Herriman City Council during a work meeting on Jan. 25. “But a verbal warning alone may not always be the most appropriate as well. I want to be efficient with performing my job here in the city, and I want to make sure that I am not over-enforcing, but I don’t want to under-enforce as well.”
Jones asked for “an additional tool in her toolbox” — the ability to offer a courtesy notice, notice of violation or civil citation in lieu of a criminal citation. The violation notices would allow animal control officers to track offenses and identify repeat offenders without issuing fines. The civil citations would allow officers to issue fines without linking the offense to a person’s criminal record.
The Herriman City Council unanimously approved the ordinance amendment at the Feb. 8 city council meeting.
“It makes such sense that I can’t believe it was not already in force,” Councilwoman Nicole Martin said.
Councilman Jared Henderson shared a personal anecdote to illustrate his support. Nearly 10 years ago, animal control officers issued Henderson a criminal citation when they assumed his dogs caused havoc in a local neighborhood.
“I run with my dogs, and they see mine all of the time, so they thought that the culprit dogs were my dogs, and they weren’t,” Henderson said. “I fought (the citation). I had a hearing right here and won that fight, but it still shows up on my record. It says that it was exonerated, and it’s somewhat inconsequential, but it still shows up on a criminal background check.”
Other city council members laughed as he told the story, and agreed that the council made the right choice to pass the ordinance to keep these kinds of citations civil matters.
Although animal control officers may now issue varying citations, Jones said her main focus to maintain order in the community will still be education. When she runs into first-time offenders— depending on the offense—she’ll likely teach them the proper way to obey the law and issue a violation notice without a fine, she said.
This notice will allow her to track who has and has not had a chance to receive animal control education. When repeat offenders continue their malpractices, she said she’ll start escalating fines.
“It’s a less-aggressive option to get compliance with some of the issues,” she said. Jones mentioned two common offenses by animal owners: letting dogs run loose in parks and neglecting to license animals. For a full list of animal laws in Herriman City, review the city code at, http://slco.org/animal-services/laws/