Hobart considers changes to limits on dogs in residences
By Kevin Boneske
HOBART – Possible changes to the village code as it relates to the number of dogs allowed in a residence were discussed at length Tuesday, March 16, by the Hobart village board.
Upon reviewing Hobart’s municipal code, Village Administrator Aaron Kramer said it appears there are errors and contradictions for regulating the number of dogs permitted in a residence.
“How this started was staff was giving residents two conflicting answers to (the question), ‘Can I have more than two dogs?’” he said.
Kramer said he found “potential areas for confusion” in the code related to how many dogs may be kept on property zoned residential.
“Is it really a zoning question?” he said. “Zoning is defined as land use… Animal regulation is animal regulation.”
After reviewing ordinances to regulate dogs from nearby municipalities, Kramer said he found Hobart and the Town of Lawrence were the only two municipalities which handle the number of dogs as a zoning issue.
The way Hobart’s ordinance is written, Kramer said one clause states a conditional use permit (CUP) is required to keep more than two dogs in the R-1, R-2 and R-3 residential district.
“They’ve got to pay $225 to go through a conditional use hearing to get an extra dog license,” he said.
However, Kramer said another clause states someone keeping more than two dogs has to file a statement with the village clerk-treasurer.
“Right there is the first conflict,” he said. “We were telling some residents, ‘You’ve got to get a conditional use.’ We were telling some other people, we’re telling residents, ‘You’ve just got to fill out a form.’”
Kramer said residents who live on residential property zoned ER don’t need a conditional use permit.
Given the cost involved with obtaining a CUP to keep more than two dogs on residential property, board members favored discontinuing the permit requirement upon rewriting the village code.
Kramer said the code also currently states a limit of four dogs, and if the police department receives a nuisance complaint about the number of dogs housed on the premises, the household must agree to reduce the number to two.
“There’s a big difference between a complaint and a citation,” he said.
Kramer suggested changing “complaint” to “violation,” because under the literal interpretation of the current ordinance, he said someone complaining about dogs barking where there are more than two would result in the number being reduced at a residence.
“It should be reworded, if we’re going to go this route, nuisance violation,” he said. “Officers respond to complaints all the time, but they don’t write citations all the time.”
Kramer said he would recommend grandfathering everything that is in place now where dogs are kept on residential property.
Board members discussed possible revisions to the code related to the size of a residential lot and how many dogs should be allowed.
They ended up suggesting up to two dogs be allowed on residential lots of 2.5 acres or less and allowing up to five dogs on residential lots greater than 2.5 acres.
Kramer said he would draft an ordinance revision to bring back to the board for review in April.
Because of the likelihood of the drafted ordinance undergoing subsequent revisions, he said the measure would have a first and second reading prior to adoption.
“Now let’s understand, the purpose behind these public readings is exactly that,” said Village President Rich Heidel. “We can sit here, and I can guarantee, give us another 10 minutes and we’ll come up with another problem.”