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St. Joseph County moves forward with new animal ordinance

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -

For nearly a year revising the county’s animal ordinance has caused controversy and debates among local animal advocates. But, at Thursday’s meeting they agreed to move forward with a new version of the ordinance.

There has been a lot of back and forth about regulating the local Facebook pages dedicated to reuniting lost pets with their owners.

With over 12,000 members, many are turning to the South Bend Lost and Found Pets Facebook page to locate the owner of a lost pet instead of the shelter.

“The way we work and do things have changed. Times have changed and lost and found pages on Facebook are here to say,” says admin Melody Heintzelman.

The new ordinance requires finders to file a report with the humane society within 24 hours, or one business day, after locating a pet. This way, pet lovers who aren’t on Facebook can find their lost animal the old way.

The ordinance also allows a found pet to be transferred between members.

“It has been a long fight and finally we’ve come to a compromise. Very happy, its finally worked out we can keep doing what we’re doing and I’m really happy for that,” says Heintzelman.

The new ordinance also includes several big changes to help local rescue animals find homes.

The current kennel rule, limits pet owners to three dogs unless they have a permit.

“But now, with this new revision if they’re proven to and vetted as a responsible pet owner they’re going to be able to have as many as they want. And hopefully it’ll empty out the shelters. Not totally empty them out but it’s going to make space for new arrivals,” says Bill Sykes, a member of the work group.

Pet shops in the county won’t be able to get the animals from commercial breeding facilities. They will only be allowed to sell animals from shelters.

St. Joseph County will be the first in the state with that rule.

 “That says so much about St. Joseph County and about the animal advocacy community because it’s starting to take place little by little across the country, but, the fact that St. Jo County wrote this ordinance and put that in there is huge,” says work group member Becky Kaiser.

The ordinance will go to the county council for a first reading on April 11th and they will vote on it at a public hearing in May.

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