Chesterton Tribune

Animal Shelter advisory board forms committee to look at new ordinance

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A new ordinance revising the enforcement duties of the Porter County Animal Control and operations of the Animal Shelter has the shelter advisory board looking to make adjustments.

The shelter board held a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the most recent draft of the ordinance, about 40 pages long. Because the document’s provisions set fines, restrictions and medical requirements such as annual tests and immunizations, board members raised concerns that the June 1 deadline set by the county commissioners office to offer suggestions may not be adequate time for them to thoroughly address the codes proposed in the ordinance.

“It is too large to deal with right now,” said board member Rachael Jones.

The ordinance, which is about 30 pages longer than the current animal control code ordinance, had been tentatively scheduled to go before the county board of commissioners for a vote and public hearing at its upcoming June 5 meeting. It is likely however the vote will be pushed back to a later date in order to allow time for the shelter advisory and animal control boards to give input, county attorney Betty Knight said on Thursday.

Knight said there is no real deadline for the ordinance but suggested the first week of June as an approximate deadline so the matter “wouldn’t be forgotten about for years and years.”

The shelter board approved formation of a five-member committee to put forward suggestions for the board. Those five members are shelter board members Rachael Jones, Patrick Cassin and Laura Blaney, shelter director Jon Thomas and animal control board member Meredith Reggie.

Jones said she would like to address specifically the passages that require animals to have specific vaccinations and medical tests, fearing they may be too restrictive. She said the new ordinance reads from the perspective of a law enforcement officer since it was crafted by Animal Control, a division of the Porter County Sheriff’s Police.

The code is for animal control, Knight said, but it does involve the shelter since the two entities do overlap in their duties.

While it has been suggested that Animal Control and the Shelter work together, Cassin, who is one of the county’s animal control officers, said that animal control and the shelter are separated by means of their primary goals. Animal Control’s top priority is public safety while the shelter’s main concern is animal welfare.

Blaney and Jones also felt members of the public should have the opportunity to offer their feedback and would ask the commissioners about posting the final draft of the ordinance on the county’s website.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, told the Tribune that he will see to having the proposed ordinance posted on the county’s website days before the commissioners open it to a public hearing where residents can give their concerns. He said he would like to give time for the boards to look over the document since it was only this week that they first saw it.

Posted 5/18/2012