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Animal Brochure

The City of Buffalo Ordinance book has a section devoted to making life easier for pets, pet owners and neighbors of pets.  These laws are necessary to protect the rights of everyone and keep our community safe for pets and people.  The following questions are often asked by city residents and the answers will help everyone to understand the laws.  

Do my dog and cat need a license? 

The City does not issue pet licenses. Owners are required to have proof of rabies vaccination as well as identification on their pet or be microchipped.     

How many pets can I have?  

The ordinance states that a structure can house: 

– no more than three (3) animals (of any combination of cats and/or dogs)  

Does my pet have to be on a leash in my own yard? 

Yes.  Pets can not run at large and must either be on a leash under the control of a person of suitable age, be securely tethered in their own yard or be effectively confined within an enclosure, building or motor vehicle.  

What are the rules about cleaning up after my pet? 

Owners must clean up after their pets on all public and private property.  Pet owners are also not allowed to let excrement accumulate in their own yards for more than 7 days.  

If there is an animal running around my neighborhood can I catch it? 

Yes.  It is legal for any person to seize an animal running at large.  You are required to report that you have the animal within six hours to the police.  If you know who the animal belongs to, you are required to give this information to the police.  

If my pet is missing what should I do? 

Call the Buffalo Police Department at 682-5976 (after hours call 682-1162)  Records are kept of all impounded animals .  After 5 days, records are maintained at the animal shelter where pets are impounded.  Animals are held for five business days and then put up for adoption.  Animals that are not claimed or adopted could be destroyed. 

My pet has been impounded.  How do I retrieve it?  

If your pet is impounded and you live in the City you must first purchase a license for your pet which means the rabies vaccination must also be current.  Once this is taken care of, you must pay the impound fee and the animal shelter maintenance costs.  The current impound fees are:  1st offense, $25.00, 2nd offense, $50.00 and 3rd offense $75.00 (in 6 months)  

What happens when a dog or cat bites someone? 

This should be reported to the Buffalo Police Dept. by dialing 911 or 682-1162.  If the injury is serious enough to require medical attention, any treating physician is required to file a report with Chief of Police. 

The incident will be investigated and the animal in question will have to be quarantined for a period of 10 days.  To be quarantined the animal must be kept inside the home or at a veterinary hospital at the owner’s expense. 

If the attack is unprovoked, the animal could be deemed: “potentially dangerous.”  The owner is notified of this determination in writing.  If the animal attacks someone again, it must be removed from the City immediately.  

What can be done about that barking dog in our neighborhood? 

It is against the City Ordinance to allow pets to bark or whine excessively.  Often the reason these pets are barking or whining is that they have been left unattended.  Pet owners should be aware that pets left alone for long periods of time have a greater tendency to bark.  If you are going to be out of town, make sure someone is taking proper care of your pets while you are gone.  Call the Police Department at 682-1162 to report violators. 

Can I have a mountain lion or chickens in the city limits?  

No, wild animals are not allowed in the city limits.

Applying for Variances, Conditional Use Permits, Minor Subdivisions, and Annexations

The Buffalo City Code book contains ordinances designed to provide safe, orderly and well planned building and growth in the City.  The variance and conditional use process provides a means to review requests that would not normally be allowed according to the ordinances.  The subdivision process allows property owners to realign property lines and split or combine parcels.  The annexation process allows for properties adjacent to the City to apply to become part of the City and receive City services.  

Requirements for a Variance 

A Variance is needed when a request to build does not meet applicable ordinances.  In order to qualify for a variance the applicant must show that undue hardship will result if the variance is denied due to the existence of special conditions and circumstances which are peculiar to the land, structure or building involved.  Special conditions may include exceptional topographic, water conditions or other irregularities restricting building on an existing lot of record.  

There are two types of variances; minor and major.  Minor variances take less time to process and may be applied for when a hardship is created due to a public action or change in City Code standards.  Also, the structure and/or setback deviations are common among neighboring uses and do not exceed five feet.  Minor Variance requests are reviewed by the City Zoning Administrator and then voted on by the City Council.  Major Variances would be anything not meeting the above criteria and must go through the entire public hearing process.  

If you need to apply for a variance, please refer to the “Filing Procedures” section in this brochure.  

Requirements for Conditional Use Permit 

The Conditional Use Permit process allows the City a reasonable degree of discretion in determining the suitability of certain designated uses.  The City will take into consideration such things as the nature of adjoining land and buildings, effects upon traffic flow, planned future uses in the area and public health, welfare and safety.  Such things as putting a fast food restaurant in a business district or building a second garage in a residential district would require a Conditional Use Permit. 

If you need to apply for a Conditional Use Permit, please refer to the “Filing Procedures” section in this brochure.  

Requirements for a Minor Subdivision 

Examples of a Minor Subdivision are; combining two abutting lots, dividing a lot to create no more than two lots (can be done only once in a 5 year period) or moving a lot line between two abutting properties.  All resulting lots in a minor subdivision must conform to existing building and zoning codes. 

Minor Subdivisions can be done administratively as long as the above criteria are met.  The subdivider must have a registered land surveyor prepare a certificate of survey which needs to be submitted with the application and filing fees.  This is reviewed by the Zoning Administrator who will determine if the criteria for a minor subdivision has been met.  If approved the City will have the subdivision recorded by the County and then it’s complete.  

Requirements for Annexation 

Annexations are handled on a case by case basis.  Annexations must be approved by the township.  Some townships already have areas pre-approved for “Orderly Annexation” into the City.  Final approval of annexations is done by the State Planning Agency.  Anyone interested in pursuing an annexation should contact both the City of Buffalo and their Township officers.  


The application procedure is the same for major variances and conditional use permits.  State Statutes mandate the public notification process.  When a major variance or conditional use permit is requested all property owners within 350 feet of the requesting party must be notified and a public hearing held.  This notification must be done at least 10 days prior to the hearing.  It is done by mail and by publication in the Wright County Journal Press.  The public hearings are held at the monthly Planning Commission meetings on the second Monday of the month.  In order to meet notification and publication requirements, the application along with all necessary information and filing fees must be submitted by the third Friday of the month.  The application form can be picked up at the administration counter at the City Center. 

Once a completed application is received, it is reviewed by the City planning consultants.  These consultants charge an hourly fee for their services.  Their fee must be paid by the applicant.  When an application is received, the City will collect the filing fee plus an estimate of what the planner’s fee will be.  

The difference between what is billed and what was collected will either be refunded or billed to the applicant. 

Building Permit Brochure


All new construction, all additions or alterations and accessory structures require building permits. For further information about accessory structures, see the area in this brochure titled, “ACCESSORY STRUCTURES.” 

Once an application is submitted the Building Inspector reviews the plans. Generally a permit can be issued within a week or so from the time it is submitted, if it is complete. To obtain an application form at the City offices or on our website.

RESIDING: A permit is required for residing a building. 

REROOFING: A permit is required if you are replacing roofing materials. 

REMODELING: A building permit is required if you are making alterations to an existing structure.

FINISHING A BASEMENT: A permit is required if you are finishing a basement.

DECKS: Please refer to the brochure attached to our deck permit before applying for your building permit.  


Once it has been determined you need to apply for a building permit the following is information you will need to complete the application. 

A Building Permit Application form along with two sets of certified land surveys or site plans showing all easements, locations of structure and elevation in relation to street grade, and two sets of building plans and specifications is required for a building permit. We will return one of the sets of site plans and survey to you at the time the building permit is issued, while the other set stays on file at our offices. 

The following information is needed to complete the application form: 

Setbacks: Every zoning district has minimum setback requirements. Because setbacks vary dependent upon your address, you should call the City offices to find out what the setbacks for your lot will be. Phone numbers are listed on this brochure. The City code may also be found in our website.

Lot Size & Building Size: The lot size and building are to be placed on the site plan or survey along with the locations on a scaled plot plan or certificate of survey. 

Elevations: For new construction lot elevations may need to be shown on your survey or site plan. If your lot is within 1,000 feet of the lakeshore, the elevations must be shown on a certificate of survey. On all new home construction, the garage floor must be at an elevation of no less than one foot above the grade of the crown of the street. 

Building Plans: Two sets of completed plans and working drawings of all proposed construction to include: 

– Front, rear and side elevations (for all new construction) and within 1,000 feet of the shoreland. – Basement floor plan and first floor plan. 

– Cross Section (Sectional plan) – typical wall detail: 

– Footing to roof, list building materials and dimensions. 

– Heat loss calculation: a standard worksheet of the exterior building envelope. 

Site Plan or Certificate of Survey: To include: 

– Setback distances from property lines, side yards, rear yard, and if on the lakeshore, the setback from the Natural Ordinary High Water Level (a registered land surveyor must certify the NOHWL) 

– Easements for drainage and utilities. 

– Proposed location of dwelling, driveway and all existing buildings or any other lot characteristics. 

Grading Certificate

– A Grading Certificate is required to be signed by the surveyor before a certificate of occupancy can be issued. (A legal guarantee that the grading is correct.) 

Mechanical Permits

– All Mechanical permits are required by the State of MN for the contractor to post a $25,000 Surety Bond. Application for Surety Bond is at the City Center. 


All detached structures that are larger than 120 square feet require a building permit. In residential areas, accessory buildings may be built a size not to exceed 25 percent of the rear yard square feet or 900 square feet, which ever is greater, unless approved by a conditional use permit. To measure the square feet of your back yard, the rule of thumb is to use the back wall of the house, then measure the square feet from the back wall to the rear property lines. Setbacks will be dependent on your address. Please call for the required setbacks. 

For a second accessory structure, you will be required to obtain a conditional use permit. A conditional use permit will require additional time and fees, so be prepared to include the extra time and fees in your budget. 


The fees required will vary dependent on the type of project applied for. Generally the permit fee is base on the value of the complete project and is determined by the Building Inspector based on the uniform building code fee schedule.

Fences, Swimming Pools & Landscaping


Residents in Buffalo who desire to install fencing should read this information before purchasing your materials. A permit application and other information are also available in print at the City Center. 


Please view our Fence Application Packet for informational guide and to apply for a Zoning Permit to install a fence.


Swimming pools constructed below ground level require building permits as well as above ground pools with a capacity of 5,000 gallons (or more) and/or TWO or more feet in depth. 

For pools requiring a building permit; fencing, screening or other protective enclosure will also be required. Fences must be at least four feet in height and shall not be more than four inches from the ground. All fence openings and points of entry shall be equipped with gates or doors with safeguards to prevent children from gaining uncontrolled access. Swimming Pool Application.


Trees selected should be suitable for Minnesota climate and solid. Plantings should be no closer than three feet from property lines or fences. Trees and shrubs planted near overhead power lines should be a variety that grows no more than 20 feet in height. 

Some properties have utility transformer boxes near boulevards or in the easements along property boundaries. Landscaping may be done to help hide the boxes, however, the doors to the boxes should be accessible to utility workers. Please avoid planting shrubs in the area where the doors are located. You may wish to have City staff look at your plan before landscaping around the transformer boxes. We will advise you if the plantings may cause a conflict with access. Typically, no plantings or obstructions should be placed within two feet of sides or ten feet of the doors of the utility boxes.

Park Bench or Table Donor Program
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