Animal Control Officer Elizabeth Futoma
For time sensitive animal matters, please call the Portsmouth Police Dispatcher at 401-683-0300 Ext 0.
The Animal Control Officer (ACO) is responsible for enforcing all state laws and town ordinances involving domesticated animals in the Town of Portsmouth. The ACO is also responsible for the pick-up of stray animals and attempting to locate their owners. The ACO works with the Potter League for Animals shelter in Middletown, RI, for town licensing and sheltering found domesticated animals until claimed by their owner. When a domestic animal doesn't have a town license or other visible identification the animal is brought to the Potter League shelter in Middletown until the owner claims it. Dogs will only be released from the Potter League once they are rabies vaccinated and licensed. Cats must also be rabies vaccinated before they will be released from the shelter. The ACO works with the Potter League and the Town Clerk’s office to enforce the state’s yearly dog licensing requirement.
The ACO works closely with the Potter League shelter in housing stray animals and locating their owners, getting pets vaccinated, and assisting the public with the shelter’s many public assistance programs. Check the Potter League’s website for more information on the programs they offer, including training classes, volunteer opportunities, and vaccine and microchip clinics.
What are microchips, and why are they important? A microchip is a tiny, electronic chip about the size of a grain of rice which is used for permanent pet identification. When a microchipped pet is scanned with a microchip scanner, the scanner reads the microchip’s unique ID code. The microchip registry is called, and the registry company uses the ID number to retrieve the pet parent’s contact information from their microchip database. If your pet needs a microchip you can talk to your veterinarian or visit a local microchip clinic event. It is important to make sure that your pet’s microchip is registered and updated with the microchip company so that you can be contacted if your pet gets lost and is found!
Do microchips work? YES! Several years ago, the Portsmouth ACO was contacted regarding a stray cat that was found by a good samaritan here in town. The cat was injured and when it was brought to a veterinary office, the staff found it had a microchip. The ACO was able to locate the cat’s owner, who said their cat had gone missing nearly a year ago! The cat was happily reunited with their owner.
Coyotes are a common sight across the whole of Aquidneck Island. Biologists have advised that the best way to control the coyote population is to manage human provided food resources such as open dumpsters and trash cans, pet food left outside, and dropped fruit from fruit trees, just to name a few.
What should you do if you see a coyote? If the coyote is moving quickly through an area and not bothering anyone, simply leave it alone. If a coyote is lingering in a roadway or on private property, the recommendation is to “haze” the coyote by making noise (clapping, yelling, air horn, etc.) and trying to scare it away so that it will not want to linger in that area any longer. Coyotes are going to pass through our yards and roadways, but they can do so quickly and without lingering.
NUISANCE & INJURED WILDLIFE
Nuisance wildlife such as squirrels in the attic, raccoons in a garage, or woodchucks under a shed are NOT handled by Animal Control and are the responsibility of the property owner. Nuisance Wildlife Control Specialists are companies permitted by the state to handle these types of situations.
Injured and orphaned wildlife are cared for primarily by the Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island, also known as the “wildlife clinic”. The wildlife clinic is located at 2865 Tower Hill Rd in North Kingstown, near the University of Rhode Island. Animal Control will attempt to assist residents with catching and containing orphaned/injured wildlife needing to go to the clinic. However, the ACO’s responsibilities here in town do not allow them to transport wildlife found on private property. If the injured animal was found on your property, you are responsible for making arrangements for the animal to be transported to the wildlife clinic.
BE PREPARED FOR NATURAL DISASTERS
Keep in mind that you are on Aquidneck Island and that all three bridges could be closed during a major event. Travel might be restricted when winds originating from directions perpendicular to the bridges are recorded in excess of 58 miles per hour. Closure of the bridges to all traffic will be considered if winds increase to a sustained 69 miles per hour in the above specified directions.
The more advance planning you do, the safer you and your pets will be!
ANIMAL CONTROL FAQs
What do I do if I think an animal may need help due to animal cruelty or neglect?
Any suspected cases of animal neglect or abuse can be reported to Portsmouth’s ACO or to the RI Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Humane Law Enforcement Department at 401-415-8029 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
RI Animal Welfare Laws prohibit different types of animal abuse and cruelty to animals. Some of these laws provide protections for pets that may be left outside in the hot or cold weather by their humans. Have you ever seen a dog locked in a hot car during the summer months? RI law does not allow a pet owner to leave their animal in an unattended motor vehicle under dangerous conditions such as hot days.
Why do we have a leash law?
What should I do if my dog gets loose or my cat goes missing?
For dogs who escape from their yard or from an owner’s custody, the first step should be to call the non-emergency police line at 401-683-0300 Ext 0 to report your dog missing to the dispatcher. This way, if someone calls the police reporting they found a dog, they will know who to call to go pick up the dog. For both missing dogs and cats, also report the missing pet to Animal Control and the Potter League. If you have social media, there are some local town groups that allow posts asking for the community’s help in finding missing pets.
Do we have rabies in Rhode Island? Can my pet get rabies?
Rabies is widespread through most of the United States, including Rhode Island. While the rabies virus is not common in wildlife populations, it is present. It is important to keep all dogs, cats, and ferrets rabies vaccinated even if they live indoors. Pets can get rabies from exposure to a wild animal that is carrying the rabies virus. Bats are the most common rabies vector species in Rhode Island.
Where can I get my pet rabies vaccinated?
Portsmouth Animal Control partners with the RIVMA to hold a low cost rabies clinic each spring. Rabies vaccines can be administered at any of the local veterinary offices as well as at pop-up vaccination clinics at local pet stores.
Why should I get my dog/cat “fixed”?
Spaying and neutering our pets prevents continued pet overpopulation and keeps our crowded animal shelters from becoming even more overwhelmed. Getting your dog or cat spayed/neutered may help with behavioral problems such as territorial marking and other hormone driven behaviors. Spaying and neutering also prevents several types of cancers from developing in your pet.
Are there any resources available to help me get my pet spayed or neutered?
While spaying and neutering is highly recommended for every dog and cat, the cost can be prohibitive for some people. The Potter League Spay & Neuter Clinic has discounted prices as do the Potter League Pets in Need Clinic and the RISPCA Animal Health Center. Animal Control is also able to help offset the cost for some local residents who qualify. Reach out to the ACO for more information!
Can I have goats/chickens/livestock on my property as pets?
While there are no local animal control ordinances prohibiting the ownership of livestock, there are zoning ordinances which govern whether a property is large enough to legally house any form of livestock. Keep in mind, too, that Portsmouth has a nuisance ordinance which includes crowing roosters, loose livestock off the owner’s property, and other livestock related nuisances.