Leash rules expanding to county

HANCOCK COUNTY —People whose pets wander off their property without a leash will face a $50 fine under new proposed regulations.

Currently, employees from Greenfield-Hancock County Animal Management can’t issue fines to pet owners outside Greenfield city limits whose dogs are caught running loose, leaving the office with little recourse to discourage residents from letting pets roam freely — a frequently fielded complaint.

Greenfield already has an ordinance on the books allowing animal management to fine pet-owners who don’t comply; the proposed new rules would bring the rest of the county up to the same standard, which enables animal management to issue a written warning to residents for the first offense.

Subsequent offenses result in a fine, which starts at $50 and increases an additional $50 for each subsequent offense before topping out at $2,500.

Current policies at animal control allow employees to pick up dogs found wandering in the county. Sometimes, the animals are strays, but often, the office receives complaints from residents whose neighbors’ dogs have slipped out and are running loose.

While the office typically issues a warning before fining pet owners, it will be helpful to have a tool to discourage residents whose animals habitually escape, said Debbie Harris, office manager at animal control.

Harris estimates the department receives three to four complaints a day about dogs running loose.

When office staff members respond to a complaint about a loose dog, they’re often left to mediate disputes between neighbors, she said.

A fine, perhaps, will provide a more effective tool for employees to encourage residents to keep track of their pets, she said.

If animal management receives a complaint about an animal running loose but doesn’t arrive at the property quickly enough to verify the complaint, neighbors can submit photos as proof, county attorney Ray Richardson wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter.

Commissioner Marc Huber said he’s received multiple calls from county residents who were concerned about loose animals.

The goal of the ordinance is safety, not only for the animal but neighbors.

Though many dogs aren’t aggressive by nature, some are easily startled when they wander into unfamiliar territory, where passing traffic also can pose a hazard, Harris said.

Ultimately, the proposed procedures will protect both pedestrians and animals, Huber said.

The board will vote on the ordinance at an upcoming meeting.

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.