County mulls change to rule: Ordinance would fine irresponsible owners, help pets

GREENFIELD – Pet-owners whose dogs bark incessantly or run loose through their neighborhoods could face fines under an expanded ordinance under consideration by county officials.

Greenfield-Hancock Animal Management staff members have asked the county commissioners to adopt rules that would allow staff to better address resident concerns, saying current guidelines fall short of most complaints the department receives.

Animal management director Amanda DeHoney told the board of commissioners this week they get many calls from county residents about cats and dogs running loose around the county, dogs barking and animals left outside for long periods of time with no food, water or shade.

But there’s nothing the office can do to address issues related to animal safety and protection; the county’s animal ordinance is limited, only prohibiting dogs running loose, she said.

She’s asked board members to consider putting rules on the books that would establish fines for residents whose animals aren’t tethered or a nuisance to neighbored — a request that’s been made by residents in the past. She also asked they consider an ordinance that prohibits people from chaining their dogs outside for more than 12 hours.

The board took no official action Tuesday, but members expect to continue discussing the issue — including how fines would be assessed — at an upcoming meeting.

Now, when residents living outside Greenfield city limits make complaints, her office can’t do anything about it because the pet owners aren’t violating any rules, she said.

Greenfield’s animal ordinance is detailed, addressing multiple issues including animals that roam neighborhoods, dogs that bark all day and night and pets that are tied up for extended periods of time.

Commissioner Brad Armstrong said he doesn’t want the county ordinance to be as lengthy as Greenfield’s, but he asked county attorney Ray Richardson to draft an ordinance addressing barking and stray animals.

DeHoney had proposed the county also include a line that prohibits people from beating, tormenting or abusing their animals in the ordinance, but Richardson said state law already addresses animal cruelty.

It would be up to prosecutors to press criminal charges for those instances; the county can pursue only civil lawsuits — if someone failed to pay the fines, for example, Armstrong said.

Pursuing those lawsuits, however, could be expensive, Richardson pointed out.

DeHoney said animal management wouldn’t necessarily write a ticket every time there is a complaint. Now, however, the department can’t even educate residents about rules because there are none in place, she said.

“Why do we serve the county if we don’t have any ordinances we can enforce to help the citizens requesting help?” DeHoney asked.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.