Carmel’s proposed updates to animal welfare law shift burden from taxpayers to owners of lost pets 


After the Carmel city council briefly discussed a proposal to overhaul the city’s animal welfare ordinance at its Feb. 17 meeting, its Finance, Utilities and Rules Committee spent two hours hashing out the details the following night.

The proposed amendments provide detailed definitions of adequate food, shelter, veterinary care and other measures that are less defined in the current ordinance. It also bans puppy mills and prohibits establishments that sell dogs from acquiring them through puppy mills. Many of the changes are similar to those in an ordinance passed by Hamilton County in 2019.

“Having this consistent language keeps (pet owners) from being able to claim ignorance and run from the problem and hide in these different jurisdictions, which happens all the time,” said Doug Sanford, a deputy in the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office in charge of the Animal Control Division. He previously worked for the Carmel Police Dept.

The amended ordinance – proposed by councilor Adam Aasen – requires pets to be microchipped or wear a collar with its owner’s contact information. Rebecca Stevens, president and CEO of the Humane Society for Hamilton County, said her organization takes in 3,100 animals each year and that more than half of the 550 pets reunited with their owners annually are microchipped or wearing a collar with identifying information.

Pets without identification are held for seven days and receive a microchip, vaccines and wellness exam at a cost of $244.26 per animal. The city in which the animal is found typically pays the cost. After a week, the animal becomes property of HSHC, which attempts to find it a new owner.

Committee members updated the proposed amendments to include a fee of up to $250 to be paid by the pet owner – rather than the cities – to cover the cost of HSHC caring for stray animals brought into their care.

The committee also approved a change to the proposed restrictions on tethering. Instead of limiting tethering to no more than 16 hours within a 24-hour period, the ordinance prohibits it between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The committee will continue discussing the ordinance at its next meeting before sending it to the full council for a vote. A committee meeting date had not been set as of press time.


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