dog in snow

Many rural dog owners give their pooches freedom to roam about their properties. While Bear (pictured here) is a good boy and stays close to home, some dogs wander too far and can cause trouble for neighbors.

Tonya Burk | Times

Rural Kanabec County dog owners could be charged with a misdemeanor for allowing their dogs to wander if the county approves a new dog control ordinance.

While cities like Mora have ordinance that defines rules and consequences regarding nuisance dogs, no such ordinance applies to the portions of the county outside city limits.

Last fall, after hearing concerns from two men who claimed their wildlife hunts were disturbed by wayward dogs, the Kanabec County Board of Commissioners tasked County Coordinator Pat Christopherson to research and draft a dog control ordinance.

The result is a 5-page ordinance with a threefold purpose:

To regulate and restrict dogs

To protect the public from diseased, stray, roaming or nuisance dogs

Make it illegal for dog owners to allow their dogs to be at large

This third purpose is where the ordinance has its teeth. By making it unlawful for dog owners to permit a dog to be at large, Sheriff Brian Smith said his officers would have more bite when it comes to responding to calls of nuisance dogs.

Smith said his office routinely receives calls about nuisance dogs. Without a county-wide ordinance prohibiting it, there was little his office could do about it. If the ordinance is approved, officers would have the power to issue citations to the dog’s owners, if they can be located.

While the ordinance was being crafted, Kanabec County Commissioners were unified in their concerns about how to word the ordinance in a way that would minimize costs of impoundments and avoid over-burdening the Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s not an ordinance that makes us dog catchers,” Smith said.

“It is written in such a way that it shouldn’t be a burden on taxpayers or divert money away from public safety,” he said.

Citizens may offer feedback on the proposed ordinance during a public hearing at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 24, in room 164 of the Kanabec County Courthouse.