Sunday, December 03, 2006

Indiana county may ban dangerous animals

Hybrid wolves reported in area

By Dick Kaukas
dkaukas@courier-journal.com
The Courier-Journal

Partly because of complaints about hybrid wolves roaming the Georgetown area, Floyd County Attorney Steve Lohmeyer is working on an ordinance to ban the possession of dangerous animals.

Lohmeyer said last week that the ordinance would make it illegal to possess a long list of animals, including lions, tigers, wolves and hybrid wolves, which are part wolf and part dog.

He added that the measure will be comprehensive, listing which animals may be kept by residents, which ones are outlawed and how they may be kenneled and caged.

It also will cover licensing and fees.

Lohmeyer said he had been asked by the county commissioners to work on the ordinance.

He said he has heard reports that several Floyd County residents own hybrid wolves and that others have big cats, such as lions and tigers.

The measure he's working on could be introduced for consideration at the commissioners' meeting Tuesday, although he added that it may not be ready by then.

Steve Bush, the commissioner who represents the Georgetown area, said he generally supports the idea behind the ordinance.

"Exotic animals can pose a safety issue," he said, "so I think it's important" to have an ordinance to regulate them.

He added, however, that he was not an expert on whether some species should be outlawed and hadn't formed an opinion about that part of the ordinance.

Consideration of the ordinance comes as at least one Georgetown resident, Sharon Allen of Alonzo Smith Road, has complained to police and animal-control officers about hybrid wolves being kept on a neighbor's property.

In an interview, Allen said that last week she found one of her family's four dogs, a beagle named Annie, dead in the backyard of her home, which sits on 40 acres.

The dog had been badly mangled.

Allen said she has frequently seen hybrid wolves running in the area and that she and other neighbors fear them.

She said she knew of no people being harmed but added, "I'm afraid that that's next."

Frank Loop, the Floyd County police chief, said his department investigated when Allen told them her dog had been killed.

But he said there was no way to determine what kind of animal caused its death.

Loop said he has seen coyotes in the area and it's possible that one of them killed the dog.

He also said that officers talked to one of Allen's neighbors, Steve Lark, who raises hybrid wolves, and that police had determined he was not in violation of any laws.

In an interview, Lark said his animals are "very good dogs" and that all were on his property and accounted for on the day the beagle was killed.

Lark said he has nine adult hybrid wolves and 14 puppies that he keeps in a reinforced kennel securely pegged to the ground.

He said he raises them to sell to people across the country.

All of his animals are about 98 percent wolf and 2 percent malamute, he said.

"That's what you want," he said, adding that with so much wolf in their genetic makeup the animals tend to steer clear of people and "keep out of trouble."

Lark said two of his wolves escaped in the spring when the kennel was damaged by a storm, but were quickly found and returned.

He said he had thought another hybrid had been stolen. But he added that he has since seen it running with a pack of coyotes.

Lark, who said he is a disabled veteran, added that he and his wife, Jackie, and their four daughters live on the property.

Asked what he would do if an ordinance outlawing dangerous animals is passed, he said he would be "grandfathered in" because when he moved to Floyd County there was no prohibition against possessing the animals.

Lohmeyer said he would argue that "each day is a new violation" under the ordinance. But it would be up to the courts, he said, to decide if that's the correct interpretation.

Reporter Dick Kaukas can be reached at (812) 949-4033.

http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? AID=/20061203/NEWS02/612030414/1025/rss02

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