Fort Wayne animal rights attorney Cody Williams, who has agreed to challenge the Kosciusko County Board of Zoning Appeals for denying a pit bull rescue the right to operate in the county, says he has Indiana law on his side.
“One of the arguments we need to make is they tried to label her as a kennel and home-based business,” Williams told StaceyPageOnline.com. “The county hasn’t defined what a kennel is so state law must come into play and state law does not place a rescue under a kennel.”
On June 11, the county BZA board flatly denied a special exception to S.C.A.R.S. Pit Bull Rescue saying they acted on overwhelming public opinion. Tracy Landis is asking to build kennels on her agriculturally zoned property on CR 100 South, Warsaw. Under county guidelines, kennels are allowed as a special exception in an agricultural district.
The board members also identified “findings of fact” that appeared to give the impression they treated the rescue as a home-based business. Member Walt Church cited “parking too small” even though Landis said the rescue would not be open to the public.
According to Williams, as defined by Indiana law, an animal rescue operation like S.C.A.R.S. Pit Bull Rescue, does not fall under a kennel operation and therefore may not even require BZA approval. “This is relevant because the exception that Tracy originally applied for was for an animal kennel, which Kosciusko County does not define other than saying it is to be given its normal everyday meaning.”
When the county does not specifically define something, such as a dog kennel or even a commercial breeding operation, the state definition is used. According to Williams, “I
thoroughly looked at the Kosciusko County ordinance and the county does not define a kennel or rescue.
“When the Indiana legislature defined dog kennel and/or commercial breeder they obviously had no intent to encompass nonprofit animal rescues in the meaning,” Williams added. “They clearly exempt animal rescue groups under Indiana’s commercial breeder laws … It is my interpretation that the everyday meaning only encompasses commercial or corporate money making ventures.”
S.C.A.R.S. Pit Bull Rescue is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization. As such, Indiana Code defines a rescue as an operation that accepts 12 or more dogs within a one year period that are available for adoption as pets or companion animals. Since 2010, Landis has operated the rescue from her private home in Claypool and has rescued and/or re-homed 165 dogs.
Williams said, “By the end of the week we will have a definite path on how we’ll proceed on this. I’m leaning toward asking for a new hearing or just going forward and continuing the rescue. We would like to reach out to the BZA first, but if we just decide to continue rescuing animals, that’s not something we want to hide … we would want to make it known that it’s a rescue operation.”