Sturgis residents to decide on dog-limiting ordinance

Posted at 4:44 PM, Aug 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-24 16:44:28-04

STURGIS, Mich. – Should your local government be able to tell you how many dogs you can have? People have strong feelings about this, and that’s the question voters will be faced with in Sturgis again in November.

For decades, some residents have battled with the issue of the so-called kennel ordinance, one that limits people to owning to owning up to two dogs. Rick Carter bought his home in Sturgis about five years ago and said he put his home up for sale because he’s rescued three dogs and he is not giving them up.

“This is part of the reason why I’m listing the house,” said Carter, "because I’m not going to live in a city that doesn’t allow me to have three dogs, the dogs that don’t cause any problems."

Carter rescued his third dog about nine years ago and considers his dogs his family. But Carter didn't know that Sturgis has had this longstanding kennel ordinance. A few months ago, Carter said, code enforcement personnel stopped by his home telling him he had 10 days to get rid of one of his dogs.

"They don’t bite, they don’t bark, they stay in the backyard,” said Carter. “We walk them and pick up after them. My dogs that cause nobody any harm are a problem? Screw them.”

Sturgis City Manager Michael Hughes said he gets it.

“Just because someone has a certain amount of dogs doesn’t always mean there are going to be more nuisances,” said Hughes.

A proposal to reverse the ordinance in May failed to pass, in part because, Hughes and Carter believe, the ballot language was confusing. Had it passed in May, there would have been no limit on the number of dogs.

In November the issue will be back on the ballot, but voters will decide if Sturgis residents can have up to three licensed dogs.

In November, the proposed change on the ballot will read in part:

“No person, group of persons, association or corporation shall own, keep or harbor more than two dogs, other than a dog serving or which has served with a Canine Handler as a member of a recognized police agency, at a property within the City. This section shall not apply to the owning, keeping, or harboring of any dog pups until they attain the age of four months.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, a third dog may be owned, kept or harbored at a property if all of the following criteria are met:

  • All three dogs are properly licensed by the St. Joseph County Treasurer pursuant to MCL 287.266;
  • All three dogs are registered within Thirty (30) days of being first owned, kept or harbored and then annually on or before March 1 with the Sturgis City Clerk and an initial and annual registration fee of $50.00 is paid;
  • No dog has been owned, kept or harbored by the registrant, or at the address of the registrant, in violation of Chapter 10 of the Ordinances of the City of Sturgis within three years from the date of registration; and
  • The place of registration of the dogs is a single family residence.”

Hughes told FOX 17 that the city would register a third dog on a case by case basis and allow three dogs despite the aforementioned third criteria in the ballot language.

“The way we would enforce is it that we would allow people to have three dogs, that’s the whole point,” said Hughes. “So if the people decide through the ballot that under certain conditions you can have three dogs, we’re not going to use that same section to say you have three dogs so now you can’t have three dogs.”