Area residents are making a push in support of a countywide animal control ordinance.
During its monthly meeting Tuesday, the Clay County Commissioners were presented with a signed petition requesting the creation of such an ordinance.
John Nicoson led a group of concerned citizens and members of the Clay County Humane Society, informing the commissioners there are several animal rescues in operation without formal regulations in place.
"We don't know if they have kennel licenses, and whenever you call the state for information, they refer you back to the county commissioners," Nicoson said. "I believe there may be nine locations under no supervision in the county."
Other concerns and issues raised by the group included the lack of regulations in place for the care of rescued animals, along with access to the facilities.
"We do have some good locations in the county, but there are some where you are not allowed on the property, even if you are trying to get back a dog that got lost," LeAnn Rhodes, who lived next to one of the facilities, told the commissioners. "Some of the other things to consider is there are some locations with no fencing, and the animals do not get a chance to exercise, plus, there is a huge issue with waste and how it is disposed."
Commissioner's Attorney Eric Somheil pointed out some of the rescues are private entities that do not have to allow public access, while Clay County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Rob Gambill said a search warrant would be required to enter a private property in situations deemed necessary to investigate a situation.
"With private property, it is a courtesy to be allowed on the property," Commissioners' President Charlie Brown said. "If they say 'no,' then you can't have access."
Nicoson suggested resolving the issues may be as simple as requiring kennel licenses.
Commissioner Paul Sinders requested the group also approach the City of Brazil, stating if all entities are on the same page, they may be able to work as a whole to create an ordinance suitable to the needs of county animal owners.
"We have taken these issues to the city every year for the contract renewal, but they are still not able to afford to provide a full contract," Humane Society Board President Anita Hightshoe said. "However, I would like to see a mandatory spay/neuter law where there would be fines for people who do not have their animals spayed or neutered."
Brown admitted he is not sure where to start with the process or how in-depth a potential ordinance should be. However, Indiana Board of Animal Health livestock specialist Cassie Dunn said a good place to begin is researching new legislation passed by the Indiana General Assembly regarding standard of care.
Dennis Shane, who runs an animal shelter in Owen County, said he believes each of the rescue owners should be contacted for their input as well.
"I think there should be regulations, but the people running these shelters should be invited to give their opinions in the matter as well," Shane said.
Rhodes claimed she contacted each of the rescues and informed them about the topic on Tuesday's agenda and invited them to attend.
Somheil said the commissioners would need to review similar ordinances and decide on a direction to go regarding items like animal tags, spay/neuter requirements and standard of care.
The commissioners agreed to gather as much information as possible and tentatively plan to discuss the potential for an animal control ordinance further during its August meeting.
In other business during Tuesday's meeting, the commissioners:
* Accepted Local Public Agency contracts which provide a notice to all parties about the intent to proceed with construction on Federal Bridge Projects for bridges 1 and 84,
* Briefly discussed placing a 10-to weight limit on County Road 300 East, south of United States 40. Suggestions were also made for 15- and 20-ton limits on the road due to the heavy trucks running to the businesses, as well as the possibility of placing the limit on non-local traffic. In addition, a suggestion was made to reduce the speed limit along County Road 950 North (Central Avenue), west of CR 200 W, to 35 miles per hour. Commissioner Jack Withers said reducing the limit was fine, but asked what how effectively it would be enforced. Both matters will be up for further discussion during the August meeting, and
* Approved a change in the health insurance for county employees to reflect the increases in deductibles would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2012.
The next meeting of the Clay County Commissioners will be 9 a.m., Monday, Aug. 1, in the Commissioners' Courtroom at the Clay County Courthouse.