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Howard County looks to update 'lacking' animal welfare ordinances

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Posted at 7:06 PM, Jun 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-05 19:06:47-04

KOKOMO — The Kokomo Humane Society and a Howard County councilman are spearheading efforts to stop animal neglect and save lives.

The Kokomo Humane Society serves as a shelter and also provides animal control services to the community.

However, Executive Director Karen Wolfe said the county and city ordinances are so weak and vague they’re often forced to leave animals in neglectful situations.

“We have no authority to go in and take the animals if the animal has food, water and shelter—even if the shelter is a cardboard box we can’t take them,” said Wolfe. “We need to change things. But we only have so much control until we can get the ordinance changed.”

Wolfe first mentioned the problem to RTV6 when reporter Kara Kenney called to ask about an alleged hoarding situation in Howard County, but Wolfe said they could not confiscate the animals or cite the owner.

They’re working with Howard County councilman John Roberts to draft new ordinances.

“I’ve witnessed animals being neglected, but the ordinance didn’t cover it and it was lacking,” said Roberts.

Roberts helped create a 12-member committee that will look at ordinances in other cities like South Bend, Omaha and Indianapolis.

For example, the Marion County ordinance took effect in 2015 and says if the temperature is above 90 degrees, or if there’s a heat advisory, you have to bring your animal inside or into a temperature controlled environment.

Marion County’s law also says once the temperature hits 80 degrees, your dog’s shelter must be shaded by either trees or a tarp.

RELATED | New rules in effect for pet owners in Marion County

“That’s a big deal, and that’s going to be a big focus because the ordinance we have is lacking,” said Roberts. “Our hope is to have the best animal welfare ordinance in the state of Indiana.”

More than 3,000 animals come into the Kokomo Humane Society every year and about 93 percent of them leave alive either through adoption, foster, rescue, transfer or they’re reunited with their owners.

Wolfe said when she came to the shelter in 2010 the live release rate was a dismal 37 percent, meaning the facility was euthanizing health and adoptable animals due to lack of space.

“We are now at the point where we haven’t euthanized a cat for space for close to two years and dogs for over two years, so it’s nice,” said Wolfe. “We are also having a lot more owners reclaim their pets. So people want to come here.”

Wolfe said the Howard County community can do more to save lives.

The Kokomo Humane Society created a Cat Café where customers can drink coffee and mingle with cats.

“We’ve done 131 adoptions form the café since we opened in September,” said Wolfe. “I think we’re doing a pretty good job. This is a little piece of heaven.”

Rick Mathis stopped by the shelter Wednesday to adopt Aloha, an 8-month-old Belgian Malinois.

“I think it’s great,” said Mathis of the shelter’s efforts to save more animals. “Animals have just as much right as humans and I believe that.”

The Kokomo Humane Society wants citizens to know their goal.

“We’re here to save lives and help people that love these animals,” said Wolfe.

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