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St. Joseph County approves new animal ordinance: lost pet Facebook groups, livestock regulations among changes

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -

The County Council unanimously passed the revised St. Joseph County Animal Ordinance on Tuesday.

For nearly a year, a committee made up of local animal advocates and council members have been working to revise the ordinance. It had not been changed since 2007. 

It was a complicated year-long process, with debates between committee members over several big changes and additions to the ordinance.

Executive Director of the Human Society of St. Joseph County, Genni Carlson, was part of the work group and will ultimately be responsible for enforcing the ordinance.

“The lost and found groups online didn't exist when we passed our last ordinance so we did have to change with the times,” says Carlson.

Factoring in the Facebook pages was led by the popularity of the South Bend Lost and Found Pets page, which has over twelve thousand members.

“They were not being recognized as anything but a Facebook group. We were afraid the animals were going from one house to another and not finding their owners,” says committee member Lois Myers.

Admin of the group Melody Heintzelman wasn’t on the work group but attended the sessions to advocate for her group. With her input, the county set some new guidelines.

Found animals will now have to be reported to the humane society.

“We have come a long way and we finally had our voices heard and that's we needed,” says Heintzelman.

The new ordinance also tackles the kennel rule. Lifting the four animal limit per household.

“If they're proven to be responsible pet owners, they're allowed to have as many pets as they want,” says committee member Bill Sykes.

Livestock restrictions will be changing too. Depending on the property size and other regulations, like distance from other residences, homeowners will be able to own more horses and chickens.

Council member Robert Kruszynski says while the process was long and complicated, the compromise and end goal was well worth it.

“We all had the same goal. Be responsible for our pets, take care of our pets because there is a lot of passionate people here that care about their pets and I'm one of them,” says Kruszynski.

Several aspects of the zoning ordinance will have to be changed to go along with the new animal ordinance. The kennel rule and livestock regulations.

The revised ordinance was also presented at the meeting for a first reading. It will go to committee, then before the council again for a vote in June.

If it’s approved, the new ordinance will take effect this Summer.

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