Thanks For Your Community Service, We’re Taking Your Pets

There was a local news story the other day about county residents being afraid of roaming dogs.  Something’s got to be done, the county will look into it, etc.  It got me thinking about Scout, who is now sort of living on our porch.  I wondered if AC happened by or the letter carrier tried to deliver something and saw Scout – could we get into trouble?

I thought that I would explain the circumstances about Scout being abandoned, having a litter somewhere in the neighborhood that she’s still nursing, how I’m trying to find help so that she and her 7 pups won’t be roaming the neighborhood in future, that this is a temporary situation…  I figured most anyone would understand.

Then today I came across this story:

An Omaha dog trainer rescued nine puppies, then lost custody of her own dogs.

The Nebraska Humane Society said it’s a case of Sheri Frizzell having three strikes in two years. After being cited for having too many dogs, she can’t have animals in her home for four years.

On Tuesday, the group took her Boston terrier Boz, her Chihuahua Little Bit and her cat, saying she violated Omaha’s Reckless Owner Ordinance three times.

“This morning, I got up and there was nothing to get up for,” Frizzell said.

Well that sucks.  Ms. Frizell has explanations for her “three strikes” and they seem reasonable to me (a foster dog got loose, a couple foster homes fell through and returned pups).  It sounds as if she’s someone trying to help protect her community from reckless owners and roaming dogs by rescuing dogs and working as a trainer.  But the local “humane society” sees it differently:

The Reckless Owner Ordinance was enacted in 2008 to “safeguard the public against those irresponsible dog owners whose dogs pose danger to the public.”
[…]
Frizzell said she knows she can only have three dogs at one time in Nebraska, so when she rescued nine puppies from a Missouri mill, she said she got them into foster homes immediately. Three weeks later, she said she got the dogs back after two foster owners backed out.

“I was fast and furious, trying to find them home. Just the pure amount of work would force you to do that,” she said.

She said she only had the dogs for 48 hours, but NHS said that’s enough to break the law, even if her intentions are good.

So they took away her pets.  And she can’t have any more pets or foster any more dogs in need for 4 years.  I can imagine this might negatively impact her business as well. That’s protecting the community?

Can we as a society not appreciate that, as in all things, there are shades of grey with regards to caring for pets?  Having a certain number of dogs in your house does not automatically make you a puppy mill or a hoarder or someone the community needs to be protected from.  Life is not black and white.

I bet, if the NE HS took a look around, they could find ways to help pet owners and pets in their community, just like Ms. Frizzell does.  And they might even find someone who is a truly reckless owner that the public needs to be protected from.  But that person is not Ms. Frizell.  She looks like one of the good guys to me.  If I worked at the local HS, I’d want to encourage more people to give back to the community in the way that Ms. Frizell has.  I wonder how many people will be encouraged to do so now?

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18 Comments

  1. Omaha is a mess right now.

    One of the few parts of their law that was passed a couple of years ago that I actually liked was the one for reckless owners — that would allow them to target people who are habitually irresponsible dog owners. It makes no sense to keep taking people’s pets that they abuse and treat cruelly (or allow to bite peopl) and then just allow them to get another dog.

    But there is a huge difference in recklessness between having a dangerous or abused dog and being over the pet limit.

    But common sense is not the rule. Even though Omaha has a huge number of dog bites for a city its size, this is who NHS has decided to target with their laws. It sure is a waste of taxpayer $$$ and a killer (literally) for the animals.

    Reply
  2. Susan

     /  August 13, 2010

    Wow so the Nebraska HS gets two nicely trained toy dogs to sell plus the foster pups. So sad.
    That’s the problem with so many of these laws that are being pushed forward. They site horrible conditions and how they are neccesary to protect the animals from bad people … yet good people or dogs are always the first to be harmed by them, it seems. The criminals keep doing their criminal things. I really feel so sorry for Ms Frizzell, wish I knew what to do.

    Reply
    • C. Davis

       /  August 22, 2010

      Mrs. Frizell has a court appeal hearing Aug. 30, 2010 at which the public may speak. It will determine if she gets her 3 pets back or not.

      Reply
  3. Susan

     /  August 13, 2010

    http://www.cityofomaha.org/mayor/component/wordpress/contact

    Here is the Mayor’s of Omaha contact information.
    Maybe if enough people write to him, we can at least get her personal pets back to her.
    Worth a shot …

    Reply
  4. I hope that lady gets a good lawyer and goes after these brainless scumbags.

    Reply
    • Except that they aren’t brainless!
      They make money. (Doncha think those dogs are highly adoptable?!)
      Why is it that some (many) Animal Control folks go after the rescues and the active volunteer base?
      Is it because they are doing their jobs for them and doing it better?
      How did they find out (within 48 hours) that she got a foster puppy back?
      How is any of this helping????
      I thought we were all in this for the animals…hmmm. Guess not.

      Reply
    • C. Davis

       /  August 22, 2010

      She got a public defender who told her she couldn’t win & to plead guilty.

      Reply
      • Well that’s sad. Even if she can’t win the legal case, I hope she can at least get her pets back.

  5. Karlyn

     /  August 13, 2010

    On its face this seems unjust but I wonder if this woman just refused to follow the law. I live in Lincoln, NE and while we also have a 3 dog limit, you can apply for a license for more dogs (and the limit doesn’t count dogs younger than 6 months). So I checked out Omaha’s ordinances and sure enough they have a similar law. Did she apply for a permit? Was she denied? This was her third violation, so she should have been aware of the risks she was taking if she violated the law again. And if the puppies are under the age limit, well then she should be able to appeal the decision and get her dogs back.

    Sec. 6-142. Number restricted.
    (1) It shall be unlawful to own, keep or harbor at any time more than three dogs and/or five cats over the age of four months per residential or dwelling unit in the city; provided, however, this section shall not apply to kennels and catteries, or holders of pet animal avocation permit.
    (2) The number of animals authorized in section 6-144 shall not be in addition to the total number of animals specified under this section.

    Sec. 6-144. Pet animal avocation permit.
    (1) Permit required. A permit is required for any person who shall own, keep, harbor or maintain four or more dogs but no more than five dogs total and/or six or more cats but no more than eight total dogs and cats four months of age or older on the lot on which he or she resides or on a contiguous lot, which lot or lots are not zoned for business.
    (2) Application for permit; issuance; fee: Any person desiring a pet animal avocation permit shall file an application with the authority for issuance of the permit. The authority shall inspect for and consider the applicant’s compliance with this chapter in determining whether to issue the permit. An initial inspection fee of $100.00 shall be paid at the time of application. In addition, a permit fee of $50.00 shall be paid by the applicant annually on the anniversary of the issuance date of the permit. The initial inspection fee required under this subparagraph (2) is waived for animal rescues, provided such are otherwise in compliance with this chapter.
    (3) License required. All animals owned, kept, possessed or harbored under a pet animal avocation permit must be licensed as required by section 6-103, except as provided in section 6-102. Proof of individual license on each pet animal must be provided at the time of inspection.
    (4) Vaccination required. All animals owned, kept, possessed or harbored under a pet animal avocation permit must be vaccinated against rabies as required by section 6-201. Proof of individual rabies vaccination on each pet animal must be provided at the time of inspection.
    (5) Duration; renewal of permit; revocation. Such permit shall allow the applicant to pursue the avocation for a period of one year unless said permit is revoked. Being found guilty, in a court of law, of any violation of this chapter, may constitute sufficient cause for revocation of such permit. Failure to permit inspection pursuant to subsection (6) of this section shall be grounds for immediate revocation of this permit. Such permit shall be renewed annually.
    (6) Maintenance and inspection of premises and animals. A vocational premises shall be maintained in a clean and safe condition at all times. Sanitary methods shall be used to prevent or abate any offensive odors. The authority shall have the right to inspect such premises and the animals therein at reasonable hours to ascertain that the premises are kept in the aforementioned conditions and meet the following operational standards and such other standards as promulgated by the authority.
    (a) Each animal shall at suitable intervals and at least once every 24 hours, receive a quantity of wholesome foodstuff suitable for the species’ physical condition and age, sufficient to maintain an adequate level of nutrition for the animal;
    (b) Each animal shall have available at all times an adequate supply of clean, fresh, potable water. If water pans or dishes are used, such pans or dishes shall have weighted bottoms or be mounted or secured in a manner that prevents tipping;
    (c) Indoor housing shall provide for adequate ventilation, lighting, temperature control, and construction so as to provide for the safety and comfort of the animals;
    (d) Each animal shall receive care and medical treatment for debilitating injuries, parasites, and disease, sufficient to maintain the animal in good health and to minimize suffering;
    (e) Animals maintained pursuant to a vocational permit shall be predominantly maintained indoors. Premises where a vocational permit includes dogs shall provide a fenced enclosure sufficient to contain any dogs while outside.
    (f) All areas of the premises inspected for a vocational permit shall be made open and available for inspection by the authority.

    Reply
    • Thanks for providing the info. As with all these kinds of stories, we only get some of the facts of the case so it’s good to have as much outside information as possible. Since we don’t know if Ms. Frizell applied for any permits, or whether the rescue pups were under 4 months old, we’d just be speculating there. It seems like even with the permit, she wouldn’t be allowed the 9 pups plus her own pets if the pups were over 4 months.
      For the sake of argument though, let’s say she was just flagrantly violating the pet limit law, thumbing her nose at authorities while she did it. I still disagree with taking her pets away. She was violating the law only briefly, while she looked for foster homes for the pups. By allowing her to keep the pups (in violation of the law) for 48 hours, 9 dogs were saved. Would they have been otherwise? I don’t know. But I can guess it’s definitely possible they might not. If the NHS really felt it was important to smack her down, I can think of many alternatives to taking away her pets. NHS should harness the efforts of someone like this in their community, not squash them.
      Laws like this should be flexible enough to allow for good deed do-ers IMO. It’s not like she went on a shooting spree and came back with a defense of “I only did it for 48 hours!”. She was trying to save a bunch of pups that had nowhere to go.

      Reply
      • Karlyn

         /  August 13, 2010

        I agree with you, there should definitely be flexibility in the enforcement of the law, and some of the violations that can get your dogs confiscated seem relatively innocuous (I can imagine 3 accidental loose dog incidents occurring in 2 years with multiple dogs without any actual neglect going on), but hopefully the appeal system will work here and the intent of the law will be taken into account.

        I would think the intent of the limits/permits is two-fold: to ensure proper care of the animals and so they don’t create a nuisance for neighbors. It seems many animal hoarders think of themselves as rescuers (not implying at all that this is the case with Ms. Frizzell).

        Anyway, I only hope the outcome is a just one. Unfortunately many times the decisions of animal control seem punitive and arbitrary rather than in the best interests of the animals.

  6. It seems to me that what Ms Frizzell did did not result in anyone being victimized–just the opposite, which is more than I can say for what the people who took her pets away did.

    Reply
  7. nokillleecounty

     /  August 13, 2010

    My question is, how many other dogs will be killed for lack of space because they impounded dogs that had a home?

    Reply
  8. I am sympathetic with people who refuse to obey pet limit laws, but is this person someone who has helped remove pets from breeders in a way that violates court mandated holding of the dogs as evidence while the rightful owners await trial? Is she someone who wants “puppy mill” laws to be obeyed but who does not want to obey the law herself as it pertains to animal welfare?

    She may well have been hoist by her own petard here.

    Reply
    • What evidence do you have for these ad hominem speculations, Tom? Or is this just more of your “anyone who thinks there should be any standards at all is a jack-booted thug” ravings?

      Reply
  9. Pam Short

     /  August 14, 2010

    This story is so disgusting that this lady would lose her personal pets,good grief don’t they have anything better to do than take her personal dogs,big government my friends and the HSUS looking to take your rights away as a pet owner,look at the many scary things about the HSUS,they don’t want you owning pets step by step they are accomplishing this,this is a sad judgement on Omaha,I live in Illinois and I feel sorry for those in Omaha that live under this tyranny,those laws need to change and they are not going to change unless people get involved,I am sure the HS services would be better used in abuse cases,not those that are over their limit,and whose to say because you have one dog instead of 6 that you take care of them or are responsible,quite the contrary,your city really saddens me,those that think this is okay,wait until they take your rights away as parents,then you will scream.

    Reply
  10. Alyssa

     /  August 15, 2010

    Why don’t they take this stance on some more serious crime, like domestic violence?

    Reply
  11. Sheri

     /  October 5, 2011

    The dogs were not returned, but were rehomed by the owner before they could be taken. All but two of the dogs rescued were placed in other rescues by Ms. Frizzell. In the appeal the head of NHS said that there was not a limit on the number of foster dogs you could have, but that Ms. Frizzell clearly had too many. Ms. Frizzell was told several times that no permit was needed at the NHS but upon receiving the first charge of too many pets she did get an advocacy permit. In the appeal before the NHS they said they could not overturn the judges decision and denied the appeal. Before the city council the same thing was said by three of the council member. The other two asked the same question that Ms. Frizzell did in the NHS hearing..”if you can not overturn the decision then what is the appeal process for?” Ms. Frizzell added that the $100 they charged to file the appeal with NHS was just a way to collect money if they could not appeal any decisions. Ms. Frizzell is still training in the city of Omaha as her reputation with her clients is enough to keep her in business. She is also still helping in the rescue business by connecting dogs in need with rescues that can take them and helping with transport when possible. She will be working with a dog in the Rally Obedience course at the Sioux Falls, SD show on the weekend of October 28th.

    Reply

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