Saturday, February 14, 2009

John Matuszak reports: Bexley Council chews on changing dog-limit law

Bexley City Council's safety committee is being asked to allow residents to keep more than three dogs, the limit now set by city ordinance.

The recommendation was presented Feb. 10 by attorney Gary Andorka, representing residents Jan and Karl Hinch, who had been recently notified that they were in violation of the law for keeping five dogs at their Pleasant Ridge Avenue property.

Andorka expained that the Hinches take in foster and rescue dogs until they can be placed in permanent homes. He also told the committee that the residents are now in compliance with the ordinance, having moved two of the dogs to Mrs. Hinch's sister's home. They had not been aware of the three-dog limit before receiving a warning in January. Their latest group is made up of smaller dogs, including poodles and terriers.

Andorka proposoed that council either rescind the current ordinance, or create a yearly permit with a $100 fee for residents who want to keep more than three dogs. The city could issue the permits on a case-by-case basis and consider such criteria as the size of the property and previous animal law violations befiore granting the waiver, the attorney said.

A small town in Kansas has a similar permit provision, Andorka said. Columbus does not have a limit, while many of the surrounding suburbs limit residents to three or four dogs.

Andorka presented a letter with about 25 signatures supporting the Hinches in their efforts.

Mrs. Andorka reported that she and her husband, Bexley residents for about seven years, have been taking in dogs for nine to 10 years. She said she would move out of Bexley before giving up her dogs.

Animal Control Officer Becky Shope and Police Chief Larry Rinehart did not appear to favor the proposal. Shope said she responded to 11 violations of the dog limit last year. She told the committee that Franklin County requires anyone with more than five dogs to have a kennel license.

Monitoring permits would be an added burden for an already busy force, the chief added.

"When you talk about permitting, you're talking about oversight,which means increasing the work load," Rinehart said.

Mayor John Brennan expressed skepticism that people would actually come in to pay the permit fee.

City Attorney Lou Chodosh offered that the law would have to be written with narrow criteria.

"I'm afraid that every time someone applies for a permit it would become extremely subjective," he said.

Councilman Rick Weber said he might favor a permitting process, but acknowledged that the law would ave to be carefully written. Councilman Mark Masser is leaning against it.

While many residents, himself included, like dogs, "a lot of people are afraid of dogs," Masser said,

In other business, Chief Rinehart announced that he is trying to organize block watches in the community, in response to a rise in property thefts.

"Some parts of of our community are just made for community watches," Rinehart said.

Having more eyes and ears helping the police could reduce the thefts, which topped 600 last year, according to the chief.

While many residents already keep an eye on their neighborhoods, having a block watch in conjunction with the police would formalize the process, he added. They could then report suspicious activities without feeling like "nosy neighbors."

Rinehart is available to talk to any group interested in learning how to form a block watch. He can be reached at 559-4444, or at

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