Major overhaul of South Bend Animal Care and Control code approved

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Some big changes are coming for South Bend pet owners.

On Wednesday night, the Common Council unanimously approved several amendments to the city's animal care and control ordinance. The regulations hadn't been updated in decades.

Councilwoman Valerie Schey led a committee of local leaders and residents who worked for more than a year to update the language in the ordinance.

Among the most controversial changes, certain breeds -- like pit bulls -- will no longer be singled out as "dangerous." Instead, they'll be evaluated based on their behavior.

"We feel strongly that our dogs should be treated equally and have a fair chance at life," said Gabrielle Thompson, co-founder of a group called Pit Bulls South Bend.

But, Councilman Fred Ferlic says he still wants some special regulations for pit bulls. He voted in favor of the updated ordinance, hoping for a compromise in the future. Ferlic plans to introduce amendments requiring pit bulls be muzzled while on walks and that their owners have fences that are at least 6 feet tall.

"That's not much of a compromise to ask you to put a muzzle on a pit bull and to have a fence around the yard so that your grandchild or grandmother doesn't get attacked," he said.

The suggestion immediately drew negative feedback from those at Wednesday's meeting, where no one spoke out against the amendments.

Besides eliminating breed-specific language, the updated code also throws out pet limits in South Bend and encourages spaying and neutering.

Those who spay and neuter their pets will be eligible for a reduced, flat pet licensing fee.

South Bend Animal Care and Control says the changes will make it easier for them to intervene when animals aren't properly being cared for.

They'll work on educating pet owners about the changes before they go into effect Aug. 1.

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