SOUTH BEND -

The city of South Bend's new animal care and control ordinances went into effect Friday.

Big changes to the city code include:

  • Anti-tethering ordinance: Dog owners cannot keep their dogs chained up unless there is an adult at home to monitor, or between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Lifting pet limits: There are no more limits on how many pets people can own as long as all the animals are spayed or neutered, and the other animal ordinances are followed.
  • Feral cat colonies: Residents are allowed to feed and care for feral cats, as long as they take the cats in to be spayed or neutered.
  • Dangerous dog language: The city no longer singles out pit bull-type dogs or any single breed as "dangerous," but instead looks at the dog's past behavior.

Bill Sykes is the proud owner of ten dogs, six of them pit bulls.

To Sykes, the city's new "dangerous dog" ordinance is simply common sense.

"Unfortunately, the pitbull has been the subject of discrimination for about 30 years now," he says.

Sykes says the public often hears negative news about pit bull-type dogs, more than any other -- not because they're naturally more violent, but because there are more of them in general.

Any violence, he says, comes from irresponsible pet ownership, not the pet itself.

"Don't crack down on the dog, crack down on the people using these animals," Sykes says. "And that's where these ordinances come into play."

The old "dangerous dogs" ordinance singled out dogs with pit bull characteristics, calling for them to be put down after 48 hours in a shelter with no one claiming them. Pit bulls were also not allowed to be put up for adoption.

But as of Friday, two-year-old Lilly is up for grabs at South Bend Animal Care and Control.

"This is a big step forward for the city, because as you can see, a dog like Lilly could be a wonderful family companion," says Valerie Schey, South Bend Common Council member.

Schey led the committee that reformed the laws.

She says the old ordinances have stayed relatively the same since 1985.

"This re-write is a reflection of 30 years of progress in terms of animal law and veterinary medicine, so it's really exciting," Schey says.

It also means foster pet owners like Linda Geyer can rest easy knowing they won't be fined for having more than three animals.

"You can relax now," Geyer says, who's fostering about ten cats and dogs.

But what has not changed is the expectation that South Bend pet owners take responsibility for the animals in their homes. The city now requires a dog be spayed or neutered after it is caught loose. Any animal deemed dangerous must be sterilized. All animals must be on a leash when off of its owner's property.

St. Joseph County's animal ordinance is not breed specific, whereas Mishawaka's is specific to pit bull-type dogs.