An animal control policy regarding domestic animals and an ordinance increasing the annual fee for horse-drawn vehicles in the county were approved by the Kosciusko County Commissioners Tuesday.

In presenting the animal control policy, county attorney Chad Miner said, “While I think that as it currently stands now our animal control policies have been acting in full compliance under state law, and everything is correct there, but nevertheless ... we’re always looking out for law-obeying citizens and trying to be responsive to provide the best possible government we can.”

He said the policy sets out some of the process of dealing with domestic animals.

The policy states, “In the event that a domestic animal is determined by a Kosciusko animal control officer to be abandoned or neglected, the animal control officer may take that animal into custody; however, the animal control officer may not enter upon private property unless he or she is given permission to do so or unless he or she has first obtained a warrant specifically authorizing such action.

“If an animal is in immediate danger of death or severe injury, the animal control officer may enter upon private property without permission or a warrant, but only for the limited purpose of attempting to prevent immediate harm to the animal.”

The policy also states that in the event an animal control officer takes a neglected or abandoned domestic animal into custody, the officer “shall make reasonable efforts to contact the owner of the animal before taking further action.” After the owner has been contacted or after reasonable efforts to do so have been made, the officer may do one of three things.

The first option is for the officer to return the animal to the owner.

The second option is for the officer to release the animal to an animal shelter.

The third option is “upon request in writing from the owner of the animal, cause the animal to be euthanized.” If an animal is euthanized upon written request of the owner, the animal control officer “shall keep the written request, along with a photocopy of the animal owner’s driver’s license or other identifying information, for a period of not less than three years.”

Commissioner Bob Conley said, “I think it’s imperative that our animal control officer has the ability to be able to deal with what’s best for that animal at that point.”

He said the policy helps protect the animal and the owner.

The policy comes less than a month after an Etna Green woman, Sherry Koser, alleged that on June 19 Kosciusko animal control officer Jerry Clase stole her dog from her garage and shot it while she was at work. However, Koser’s landlord gave authorization for Clase to enter the property and take the dog, according to a story in Tuesday’s newspaper, so no criminal charges will be filed in the case.

The commissioners had an executive session Tuesday after its regular meeting to discuss Clase. An executive session is closed to the public and can include personnel issues, but no votes on any actions can be made during an executive session. That must be done in a public meeting.

The horse-drawn vehicles fee ordinance came about after months of discussion by the county council on increasing the wheel tax for most motorized vehicles. A series of increases were presented by the wheel tax committee to the county council at its May meeting, with a public hearing on the increases at the council’s June meeting. The council will discuss the issue further at its 7 p.m. meeting Thursday.

However, it is the county commissioners who determine license fees for horse-drawn vehicles in the county that use the roads. With the ordinance approved Tuesday, the fee will increase from $30 annually to $100 per buggy, effective Sept. 2.

Miner said the current buggy ordinance was approved and hasn’t been changed since July 2008.

Conley said, “I’ve had more calls on the condition of the roads with horses and buggies in that area than probably anything else. People who live in that area are seeing horses destroy roads pretty quickly. ... (This ordinance is) something (residents) want to see happen.”

He didn’t specify the area he was talking about.

Brad Jackson, commissioner, said the ordinance puts Kosciusko County in line with surrounding counties, too.