1909 Kalispell Ordinance: Dog Regulations
I recently found an online directory of Kalispell City ordinances and thought it’d be intriguing to see what some of the ordinances of the past were. If I can find enough interesting material, I hope to share one ordinance from each year. This week’s post will cover a Kalispell ordinance I found from 1909. A heads up: Dog lovers will not be happy with the 1909 ordinance.
There must have been an issue with dogs running loose on Kalispell’s city streets in 1909. Ordinance #204 which was approved on May 10th started by stating that the “running at large” of dogs anywhere in the City of Kalispell was prohibited. Any dog that was caught doing so would be impounded. If the impounded dog wasn’t claimed within 48 hours, the pound master would attempt to auction the dog. If he did not get an offer of $2 the dog would be killed. Any male dog that was running loose and seemed to be “mad” would be killed immediately and any female dog running at large would be killed immediately.
Also, it was against the law for anyone to harbor a dog that annoyed any other person with its loud and frequent barking, yelping, howling or any other noises. Further, if a dog bit another person or animal the police magistrate would issue an order directing the owner to kill it within 24 hours. If the owner refused, the pound master would do so.
The pound master was appointed by the mayor. The ordinance also indicated it was not allowed for anyone to try to stop the pound master or any officer who was attempting to take a dog to the pound nor could they “break, open or injure” the city pound in any way.
The ordinance also indicated everyone who has a dog in Kalispell had to obtain an annual license that cost $3 for each male dog and $15 for each female.
Anyone violating any part of this ordinance would be fined a sum up to $100.
How have things changed since 1909?
It’s interesting that there was specific wording that was intended to stop anyone from interfering with the dog catcher. Perhaps that was because people in the early 1900s also didn’t like the fact that dogs were being killed so quickly and would indeed try to stop them. Most if not all towns and cities still do not want dogs running around “at large” in 2023. In fact, current Kalispell ordinances still indicate dogs that run at large will be impounded and their owner will need to pay a fine to get them back. So the rule that dogs must be impounded has not changed but has anything changed in the last 115 years in terms of what happens to those animals?
The Flathead Valley Animal Shelter currently houses stray and surrendered animals and focuses on the adoption – not killing – of those pets. When the shelter opened in 1983, they had high intake numbers with low staff and housing resources so euthanasia results were high (approximately 64.5% of dogs were euthanized). In 1998 the shelter relocated to a larger facility and increased housing size and staff. Euthanasia rates decreased but were still in double digits. In 2008 the shelter was taken over by the Flathead City-County Health Department and by adopting industry standards they were able to get euthanasia numbers down to single digits. The shelter indicated in a recent news article that they typically euthanize animals only if there are safety or quality of life concerns, not because of space concerns. In 2022, 2% of dogs were euthanized.
As for licensing, dog licenses are still required but they are not an annual expense. The dog license must be obtained once. It’s a lifetime license and costs $45 for either male or female dogs. The license is good as long as the dog’s rabies vaccinations stay current.
This author and her husband are glad the rules have changed. They allowed us to adopt our wonderful dog Hercules from the Animal Shelter. In 1909 he would have been killed.
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